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County braces for jump in COVID-19 cases, big deficit expected for 2020-2021 budget

Wednesday, April 1st, 2020

A county staff member addresses the members of the Board of Supervisors during their now, virtual weekly meeting, on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. Video screenshot.

Three deaths in county from 212 cases, so far

By Daniel Borsuk

Since the last time the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors met two weeks ago, the number of Contra Costa residents with COVID-19 symptoms have tripled, Contra Costa County Health Services Director Anna Roth told Supervisors during a live-streamed meeting Tuesday.

Roth told supervisors the county had 212 cases of patients with COVID-19 symptoms and there had been three deaths. Two weeks ago, there 70 patients had COVID-19 symptoms and one patient had died from the virus.

In the meantime, county medical professionals are barely treading water in providing life-saving ventilators for COVID-19 stricken patients. County Health Officer Dr. Christopher Farnitano said hospitals have 76 ventilators in use and 100 more ventilators are on order, but over time additional equipment will be need.

“We are not going to save most of our patients who will need to be on ventilators. We will have 1,000 patients or more who will need to be on ventilators. Most will die. We need to reduce the number of people coming down with COVID-19 symptoms,” said Dr. Farnitano.

Dr. Farnitano said an alternate health care site is scheduled to open at the Antioch Fair Grounds next week to help accommodate additional COVID-19 patients.

County Administrator David Twa, who will retire at the end of the year, said rising health costs stemming from COVID-19 will force the county to plug up funding holes totaling $43 million a year for the next three years. The rising medical costs stem from recently signed labor agreements for hospital professionals and in-home care attendant workers.

Twa projected an 11 percent decline in property values will trigger a $27 million decrease in property tax revenue at least for the upcoming 2020/2021 fiscal year.

That projection from Twa caused District 4 Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill to warn her colleagues, “We may need to reduce the work force. We could be facing difficult times.”

Supervisors will get a better picture of the proposed 2020-2021 budget on April 21 when it is presented publicly. The budget will be formally adopted on May 12.

County Treasurer-Tax Collector Russell Watts said his office anticipates an increase in the number of property owners to file online penalty cancellation requests on April 10 because of COVID-19. Watts told supervisors he would inform property owners if any of the hundreds of financial institutions holding $450 million in impound escrow funds miss depositing funds in the county treasury the financial institutions will be held accountable. He also will report to the board of supervisors if any financial institutions fail to submit impound funds to the county.

“This revenue is essential for keeping the county, our cities and schools, and other local government agencies running and providing vital services that the public relies on, especially in times like these,” said Watts in a press release.

Under the current stay-at-home orders, the county’s more than 177,000 K-12 public school students are coping under while the stringent shelter-in-place mandate stays in place, Contra Costa County Office of Education Superintendent Lynn Mackey told supervisors.

Students are learning via distance learning although students in some school districts fall through the technology gaps more than others, said Mackey. Noting that 42 percent of the county’s students qualify for the free lunch program, the county superintendent said, “We are making sure that students don’t fall through the cracks in providing the computers and resources for distance learning.”

District 1 Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond succeeded in getting Supervisors’ support to have Deputy County Counsel Mary Ann Mason prepare a comprehensive report on the feasibility of the Board adopting a moratorium on evictions, a ban that Alameda, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara Counties have already adopted.

The proposed imposition of an eviction moratorium was one of major topics supervisors heard from 120 emailed letters from residents. Other issues citizens wrote about connected to the COVID-19 pandemic were: Imposition of a moratorium on rent, Depopulating the county jails, and Protecting county social workers.

Temporary Emergency Worker Classification Created

Citing the possibility, the County might need temporary emergency workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Supervisors unanimously approved County Administrator David Twa’s request to establish the classification with a salary range of $12 an hour to $35 an hour.

Supervisors approved County Administrator Twa’s request on a   5-0 vote even though Twa said he did not have the time to consult with labor representatives about the creation of the classification.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the county will need to hire additional workers to be able to continue providing current essential services to county residents, as well as services to provide information, protect health and save lives,” Twa’s request stated. “The County Administrator is recommending establishing the hourly classification of Temporary Emergency Worker.”

In other business, Supervisors appointed Walnut Creek-based commercial and residential developer Ross Hillesheim to fill the At-Large 2 seat on the Contra Costa County Planning Commission. Other applicants for the position, a four-year appointment, recommended by the Internal Operations Committee were former City of Concord planning commissioner LaMar Anderson, journalist Daniel Borsuk of Pittsburg, and North Richmond Residential Leadership team member Johana Gurdian.

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Arizona man arrested for felony assault on Antioch Police Officer following car chase, crash Tuesday

Wednesday, April 1st, 2020

Was also driving on walking trails in Brentwood

Andy Monticello

By Sergeant Rick Smith, Antioch Police Community Police Bureau

On March 31, 2020 at approximately 1:35PM, Oakley PD attempted to stop a white Nissan Altima with Arizona plates, later found to be driven by 54-year-old Andy Monticello for reckless driving. He refused to stop, and a pursuit ensued. The pursuit was terminated due to the reckless nature of the pursuit.

A short time later, the Brentwood Police Department began receiving calls of Monticello driving on the walking trails in their city. Multiple callers reported him driving along the trails and nearly hitting pedestrians. Updates kept coming in from numerous citizens reporting Monticello was driving reckless on Highway 4 bypass near Sand Creek Road and then again on Balfour Road. Citizen’s reported Monticello was last seen westbound on Balfour Road at a high-speed running red lights and attempting run other motorists off the road. Brentwood PD Officers converged in the areas of reported sightings and were diligently attempting locate Monticello.

Antioch Officers began to head towards Deer Valley Road based on updated reports of Monticello’s last known direction of travel. An Antioch Patrol Sergeant was southbound on Deer Valley Road when Monticello came towards him. Monticello pulled into the oncoming lane of traffic in front of the Sergeant. When the Sergeant attempted to move into the other lane to avoid a collision, Monticello matched the movement and continued to drive his vehicle at the Sergeant. Both vehicles collided head on and the Sergeant then used his vehicle to push Monticello’s off the roadway and immobilize it. Monticello was taken into custody without further incident.

Monticello was later booked into the Martinez Detention Facility on an outstanding Felony Warrant from Arizona and multiple new charges from this incident to include Felony Assault on an Officer. Oakley PD will be seeking charges related to their earlier pursuit. The Brentwood Police Department is contacting possible victims related to incidents that occurred in their city.

This was a collaborative effort by all agencies involved to resolve this incident as safely as possible and demonstrates the ongoing support each agency in Contra Costa County has for one another.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Antioch Police Department non-emergency line at (925) 778-2441. You may also text-a-tip to 274637 (CRIMES) using the key word ANTIOCH.

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Antioch Council adopts moratorium on evictions in Antioch, gives renters 90 days to reimburse landlord for each month of non-payment

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

Applies to both residential and commercial properties

By Allen Payton

In response to the shelther in place due to the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, during their special meeting on Tuesday, March 31, 2020, the Antioch City Council adopted a moratorium banning evictions for residential and business property through May 31, 2020 and giving tenants who are unable to pay 90 days to catch up on their rent for each month they’re in arrears. ACC2020.03.31 – URGENCY ORDINANCE – Moratorium on Evictions

According to City Attorney Thomas Smith, the difference between this ordinance and the governor’s executive order is that the city’s gives renters six months to reimburse their landlord.

Following public comments, Councilman Lamar Thorpe was the first council member to share his thoughts.

“I just want to ask the city attorney what differentiates what we’re doing versus what the state has done,” he said.

“This is also addressing business,” said City Attorney Thomas Smith. “This pandemic is having an impact beyond residents.”

“There is a loss of demand out there because everyone is staying home,” he continued. “Only people who are providing essential things…people are going to online entities. This also addresses the commercial impact. Employees need someplace to go back to when this pandemic is over.”

“The governor gave seven days after the person can’t pay rent to inform the landlord,” Smith continued. “This gives 14 days.”

“It’s overall a broader ordinance…including six months in order to pay back their rent,” he concluded.

“We’re including commercial, we’re thinking about the small business owner, and we’re extending to 14 days,” Thorpe said.

“And giving six months to pay their rent.” Smith added.

“Can you give the rationale…this time period after your rent is due,” Thorpe asked.

“One of the things we know is, COVID-19 is potentially a killer,” Smith responded. “If you’re sick with it, it can and will completely, in some cases, shut you down. If you’re in need of intensive care, it’s safe to assume you’re not focused on ‘oh, I missed my rent.’ So, it gives people some breaks. There literally is some grace periods…is something we’re offering recognizing the seriousness, if it’s a COVID-related impact.”

“The only final thought I’ll add is, the way we framed this urgency ordinance…as we think about, I think the scope to me is still too narrow,” Thorpe stated. “I strongly urge we consider focus on moratorium on evictions during the coronavirus/COVID-19 emergency.”

Councilwoman Monica Wilson asked that an email from a resident was read.

“In regards to the unpaid rent, can we…change the line to ‘120-day grace period per month’,” she asked.

“The 14-day grace period is the front end, and then on the back end is the six months after the expiration of the ordinance,” Smith said. “Six months is longer than 120 days.”

“Per month of missed rent,” Wilson reiterated.

“What this says, the tenant must pay within six months,” Smith explained.

“It’s giving them up to a year for repayment,” Wilson said.

“What Councilmember Wilson is saying, if it’s two months, it would be 240 days, which would be eight months,” Mayor Sean Wright explained.

“Hmmm. That’s interesting,” Smith said.

“I believe other cities are doing this,” Wilson said.

“Concord has a 90-day grace period,” Smith responded.

“If it ends May 31, it would be two months,” Wright said.

“Ours doesn’t necessarily end May 31st,” Smith responded. “It’s within your discretion…”

“I’m adding this and wondering if members on this council…” Wilson started to say.

“Councilwoman Wilson’s idea, I like that idea,” Thorpe stated.

“The 90 days kind of mirrors Concord’s,” Wright said.

Mayor Pro Tem Motts then said, “I think it’s kind of absurd that people who are going to be without income for two or three months, they’re going to be able to repay in two or three months. I think we’re setting them up for failure. I understand what the landlord is saying.”

“Nothing in here prohibits landlords or tenants from making other arrangements,” she said. “I like, Monica what you had to say, here.”

“I agree with Councilman Thorpe’s comments…the language should be ‘during the COVID-19 emergency’,” she stated. “I want our businesses to be comfortable that they scan stay in business.”

Councilmember Lori Ogorchock asked what the other council members meant by their comments.

Wright explained that the ordinance includes six months from May 31st but the other councilmembers are suggesting 120 days per month for renters to pay their back rent.

“I don’t know if I’m in agreement with that,” Ogorchock said. “I have received calls. Some of these rentals are the only income some of these people have. You’re taking salaries and income away from other people who rely on these funds. If you’re going to give them a year to repay, it will make it hard for them.”

“Some landlords have sent out letters to their tenants, including commercial tenants, giving them time to repay,” she continued. “I think going beyond these timeframes would make it difficult for these landlords.”

“Landlords are free to work out whatever they want,” Thorpe said. “This just sets a framework…a process that says this is the way it will work out.”

“Part of what it does is strengthen the bargaining position of the tenant,” Smith said. “It gives a baseline, as you said. At a minimum what we saying to businesses is we’re supporting them.”

“These are unprecedented times,” Wright said. “Never before has government told the public 80% of them can’t go to work. So, government, I believe should stay out of these kinds of things. Over 50% of our residents are paycheck to paycheck. I think this is something we have to do. The moratorium, I’m fine with it being until May 31st or until this ends.”

“The problem is the landlord, I spoke to my bank, they give me three months of forebearance,” he continued. “But at the end of those 90 days I owe every bit of it.”

“I think the 90 days, it gives the tenant six months if it goes a third month, it extends another 90 days. I know it’s hard for the landlords,” Wright continued. “But they’re going to have to work with their mortgage holder.”

Change the moratorium to urgency for COVID-19

“Going back to what I was saying about the owners of these properties, it’s not going to do the renters any good if the owners lose their properties,” Ogorchock stated. “We have to be very careful what we’re doing.”

Wright reopened public comment.

Several comments asked the council to also consider a moratorium on rent increases, as well.

Others requested that no late fees be added to rents that can’t be paid on time.

Another comment asked the council to reduce the requirements for paystubs, etc. to prove the hardship.

Motts then asked that language be include for tenants who can’t provide documentation, that they provide written notification to the landlord, instead.

“So, the words that are used, they tend to be specific to align the ordinance with the executive order,” Smith explained. “When you look at the Concord ordinance, they use the word documentation. These words are aligned legally with the words in the executive orders. Notification is different than documentation. It’s not the standard if you have to go to court.”

“Being in line with other cities as a group…is important for us as a city…as a legal defense strategy,” he explained. “And to stay under the umbrella of the state executive order.”

“Other form of objective proof is included in the language,” he continued.

“In relation to the period of time, we do either what Concord did and go with the 90 days or go with the six months,” Smith stated. “I rarely jump in and urge you to do something.”

“What I don’t want to be is in a position that is legally hard to defend,” he said.

Thorpe reiterated his concern from earlier, that the ordinance was too narrowly written and that the language should be more broad to include anyone affected by the COVID-19

“We can pass this as is,” but I’d really like to time to look into the wording to expand the scope,” Smith said. “There has to be a causal relationship in my mind. Can we show that there is a causal relationship in the definition that you’re proposing?

“It is not a presumption. We’ve asked people to stay home,” Thorpe responded.

“Certain people,” Smith interjected.

“We are telling people to stay home,” Thorpe said. “It would just be an urgency ordinance…during the coronavirus/COVID-19 emergency. Right now, we’re limiting it to rent and loss of income.

“Some people are still working. So the connection between loss of income and inability to pay rent..if you’re income is not affected then you should pay your rent,” Smith said.

“Whether you’re essential or non-essential, if you’re the worst tenant in the world, this is not the time to evict someone. It would be contrary to evict someone during the shelter in place order,”

“So, you want no landlord to evict anyone during the coronavirus,” Smith asked.

“Why would we want anyone to move when we’re asking people to shelter in place?” Thorpe asked.

“We are under the shelter of the state order,” Smith responded. “When we say no one can evict anyone during this time, that is no under the shelter of the state order. That is not under our police power. If we’re going to do something like that, we better be sure.”

“If you need to do more work, that’s fine,” Thorpe said. “We don’t want more people in shelters.”

“I just want to look whether or not we can do that,” Smith responded.

“I hear you,” Thorpe concluded.

“Right now evictions are on a stay, there can be no evictions, the courts are closed,” Ogorchock stated. “There’s a stay on foreclosures. Again, talking to Realtors…they’re unable to any evictions, right now. There is a stay on foreclosures at this time.”

“The fact the courts are closed is operational,” Smith pointed out. “When the courts open back up, if we make the change, then we would be under our authority on that.”

“I understand and see where Councilman Thorpe is coming from,” Wilson said. “I just want to make sure people have time to make up their rent.”

“I’m comfortable with either one of them. The 90 days like Concord,” Smith reiterated.

“I just wanted to reiterate what Councilmember Wilson said,” Motts stated. “I think if we’re expecting people to immediately pay back their rent we’re setting them up for failure. We don’t want more homeless.”

“Can we make these changes, tonight?” she asked.

“You can make the changes tonight, but this is an urgency ordinance which requires a 4/5ths vote,” Smith said. “It will go into effect, tonight.”

“I’m just in a position that we don’t go outside of

“A landlord can still file an eviction…yes, it can, Lori, you can shake your head all you want,” Thorpe said. “It can sit in a pile and when the courts open up…their processes are their processes.

“Roll your eyes all you want, Lori,” he added with a laugh.

“This ordinance has to do with during the emergency of the COVID-19,” Motts said. “So, I’m comfortable with that language.”

Smith said he would go back and look at additional language at Thorpe’s request.

Thorpe agreed and made the motion to adopt, with the change to the language to include a 90-day grace period per month of arrears after the expiration or termination of this ordinance, using the language from the Concord ordinance.

Wilson seconded the motion.

Ogorchock, “When Lamar was saying his motion, Smith was striking something out, so can you please read the entire language?”

Smith re-read the proposed language for the ordinance with the requested changes.

The motion passed on a 5-0 vote.

Moratorium On Rent Increases and Fees

The council members then discussed a moratorium on rent increases and fees asking the City Attorney to return with an ordinance for them to vote on at their next meeting

City Manage Ron Bernal explained that the item was in response to a request by Thorpe at the previous council meeting. There was no staff report included with the agenda.

“I’m happy to encourage our city attorney to go back and develop language for an ordinance,” Thorpe said.

Wright shared that a landlord is requiring tenants to pay a $46 fee for using their debit card to pay their rent, even though he won’t allow payment by check. “That’s wrong,” he said.

“I, too got that same email about the $46 fee,” Wilson said. She was in agreement.

“The last thing we want to do is make the situation worse,” Motts stated. “It makes no sense to have all these increases or additional fees. I’m in support for Thomas to look into this.”

“I see this as the exact opposite, in talking with brokers, today,” Ogorchock said. “They’re offering a reduction in rent. I did not see the $46 email. I’m seeing the exact opposite.”

“If there’s something we can do…we should help,” Wright said. “I’m seeing a consensus to bring this back.”

With that the council voted to adjourn the meeting.

ORDINANCE FINAL ADOPTED LANGUAGE

Following is the actual language in the ordinance adopted Tuesday night:

Section 3. Moratorium on Eviction for Nonpayment of Rent during the COVID-19 Emergency.

  1. During the term of this Ordinance, no landlord shall endeavor to evict a residential or commercial tenant for nonpayment of rent, including but not limited to any such action under Civil Code sections 1940 et seq. or 1954.25 et seq., if the tenant provides written documentation or other objectively verifiable proof evidencing the following:
  2. The tenant’s inability to pay rent is was caused by, or arises out of, a substantial decrease in household or business income (including but not limited to the circumstances described in subsections B or C) or substantial out-of-pocket medical expenses; and
  3. The decrease in household income, or out-of-pocket medical expenses, was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, or by any local, state, or federal government response to COVID-19.
  4. Substantial decrease in household income” includes but is not limited to loss of income caused by COVID-19 illness or caring for a household or family member with COVID-19 illness, work closures, layoffs, job loss, a reduction in the number of compensable hours or other economic or employer impacts of COVID-19, including missing work due to a minor child’s school closure, compliance with government health authority orders, or a similarly-caused reason resulting in loss of household income due to COVID-19, that is substantiated with written documentation.
  5. Substantial decrease in business income” includes, but is not limited to, loss of income caused by work closures, reduction in staff reporting to work, reduction in opening hours, or reduction in consumer demand, compliance with government health authority orders, or other similarly caused reason resulting in loss of business income due to COVID-19, substantiated with written documentation or other objectively verifiable proof of same.
  6. A landlord that knows that a tenant cannot pay some or all of the rent temporarily for the reasons set forth above shall not serve a notice pursuant to Civil Code of Procedure section 1161, file or prosecute an unlawful detainer action based on a three-day pay or quit notice, or otherwise seek to evict for nonpayment of rent.
  7. The City encourages tenants to inform landlords in writing of their inability to pay full rent as soon as practicable after they become aware of a substantial decrease in household income or business income or out-of-pocket medical expenses that would prevent them from paying full rent. A landlord knows of a tenant’s inability to pay rent within the meaning of this Ordinance if the tenant, within 14 days after the date that rent is due, notifies the landlord in writing of the tenant’s inability to pay the full rent because a substantial decrease in household or business income or the need to pay out-of-pocket medical expenses was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, or by any local, state, or federal government response to COVID-19, and provides documentation to support the claim. Any medical or financial information provided to the landlord shall be held in confidence, and only used for evaluating the tenant’s claim. For purposes of this Ordinance, “in writing” includes email or text communications to a landlord or the landlord’s representative with whom the tenant has previously corresponded by email or text.
  8. Nothing in this Ordinance relieves the tenant of liability for the unpaid rent, which the landlord may seek after the expiration of this Ordinance, affected residential and affected commercial tenants shall receive a ninety (90) day grace period per month of arrears after expiration or other termination of the term of this Ordinance during which to repay any monies due to a landlord for failure to pay rent or utilities, unless a state law or order is amended or adopted providing for a longer repayment period, in which case the payment period provided by the state law or order shall apply under this Ordinance.
  9. A landlord may not charge or collect a late fee or any other new fees for rent that is delayed for the reasons stated in this Ordinance, nor may a landlord seek rent that is delayed for the reasons stated in this Ordinance through the eviction process.
  10. This Ordinance may be asserted as an affirmative defense in any unlawful detainer action or other action brought by an owner or landlord to recover possession. A tenant may bring a civil suit seeking owner or landlord compliance with any provisions of this Ordinance.
  11. This Ordinance applies to nonpayment eviction notices and unlawful detainer actions based on such notices, served or filed on or after March 16, 2020 and until the expiration of this Ordinance, as set forth in Section 7, below.
  12. Courts shall have the sole discretion to determine in an unlawful detainer action or other eviction action whether the tenant’s written notice and documentation are sufficient to show a “substantial decrease in household” or “substantial out-of-pocket medical expenses.”

Section 4. Moratorium on Judicial Foreclosures during the COVID-19 Emergency.

As provided for in Executive Order N-28-20 and consistent with the other provisions in this Ordinance, the statutory cause of action for judicial foreclosure, Code of Civil Procedure section 725a et seq.; the statutory cause of action for unlawful detainer, Code of Civil Procedure section 1161 et seq.; and any other statutory cause of action that could be used to evict or otherwise eject a residential or commercial tenant or occupant of residential real property after foreclosure is hereby suspended as applied to any tenancy, or residential real property and any occupation thereof, to which a limitation on eviction is imposed pursuant to this Ordinance.

Section 5.     Compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act.

The City Council hereby finds approval of this Ordinance is exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (Public Resources Code §§ 21000et seq., “CEQA,” and 14 Cal. Code Reg. §§ 15000 et seq., “CEQA Guidelines”) under Section 15061(b)(3) of the CEQA Guidelines.

Section 6. Severability.

If any section, subsection, sentence, clause or phrase of this chapter is for any reason held to be invalid or unconstitutional by a decision of any court of competent jurisdiction, such decision shall not affect the validity of the remaining portions of this chapter. The City Council hereby declares that it would have passed the ordinance codified in this chapter, and each and every section, subsection, sentence, clause or phrase not declared invalid or unconstitutional without regard to whether any portion of this chapter would be subsequently declared invalid or unconstitutional.

Section 7. Effective Date and Publication.

This Urgency Ordinance shall become effective immediately upon its adoption by not less than a four-fifths vote of the Antioch City Council pursuant to California Government Code Section 36937 and shall remain in effect until May 31, 2020 or the expiration of the local emergency or the Governor’s proclamation of a state of emergency, whichever is later. Prior to the expiration of fifteen days from the passage thereof, the ordinance or a summary thereof shall be posted or published as may be required by law.

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Gov. Newsom signs Executive Order providing relief to California small businesses

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

Order provides 90-day extension in state and local taxes, including sales tax; extends licensing deadlines and requirements for a number of industries

SACRAMENTO – On Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order that will provide tax, regulatory and licensing extensions for businesses.

The executive order allows the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) to offer a 90-day extension for tax returns and tax payments for all businesses filing a return for less than $1 million in taxes. That means small businesses will have until the end of July to file their first-quarter returns.

Additionally, the order extends the statute of limitations to file a claim for refund by 60 days to accommodate tax and fee payers.

The executive order also includes extensions that impact state government workers, as well as consumers. For instance, the Department of Motor Vehicles will limit in-person transactions for the next 60 days, allowing instead for mail-in renewals. Additionally, the Department of Consumer Affairs will waive continuing education requirements for several professions, also for the next 60 days.

Further, the order will extend the Office of Administrative Law’s deadlines to review regular department proposed regulations. The order also extends by 60 days the time period to complete investigation of public safety officers based on allegations of misconduct. Finally, deadlines for trainings, investigations, and adverse actions for state workers will also be extended.

A copy of the Governor’s executive order can be found here, and the text of the order can be found here.

For the latest on the state’s COVID-19 response, visit covid19.ca.gov.

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Republic Services announces temporary suspension on some garbage operations

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

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Contra Costa, Bay Area Health Officers’ Stay-at-Home Order with new restrictions to last through May 3

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

More time and additional restrictions needed to slow the spread and reduce future impact on local hospitals from COVID-19

Essential businesses expanded to include service providers that enable residential transactions (notaries, title companies, Realtors, etc.); funeral homes and cemeteries; moving companies, rental car companies and rideshare services that specifically enable essential activities

As of Tuesday, March 31, 2020, health officers in seven Bay Area jurisdictions, including Contra Costa County, are extending a previous stay-at-home order through May 3, 2020 in order to preserve critical hospital capacity across the region. 2020-0331-Health-Officer-Order-COVID19

The previous three-week order was set to expire on April 7. While the prior order has been effective in reducing the rate of transmission of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), it is not enough. There has been a significant increase in the number of positive cases, hospitalization and deaths from COVID-19, which is beginning to strain healthcare resources.

The health officers have determined that more and stricter social distancing is needed to slow the rate of spread, prevent deaths, and stop the health care system from becoming overwhelmed.

“Extending the stay-at-home order should reduce the number of sick patients seeking care at one time, giving us time to acquire more medical supplies for providers who will be providing care to people sick with COVID-19. The extension will allow doctors and nurses to better treat those who do get sick, and save countless lives,” said Dr. Chris Farnitano, health officer for Contra Costa County.

The new stay-at-home order will supersede the previous order and go into effect at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, March 31. It is a complement to the indefinite statewide stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier this month.

Like the previous local order, the new order requires people to stay at home except for doing essential activities, such as grocery shopping, in six counties: Contra Costa, Alameda, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara, as well as the city of Berkeley. Non-essential businesses will remain closed.

The new order adds some clarifying language around essential business and activities, as well as some new directives, including:

  • Use of playgrounds, dog parks, public picnic areas, and similar recreational areas is prohibited. These areas must be closed to public use.
  • Use of shared public recreational facilities such as golf courses, tennis and basketball courts, pools, and rock walls is prohibited. These facilities must be closed for recreational use.
  • Sports requiring people to share a ball or other equipment must be limited to people in the same household
  • Requires essential businesses to develop a social distancing protocol before April 3
  • Most construction—residential and commercial—is prohibited
  • Funerals limited to no more than 10 people attending
  • Essential businesses expanded to include service providers that enable residential transactions (notaries, title companies, Realtors, etc.); funeral homes and cemeteries; moving companies, rental car companies and rideshare services that specifically enable essential activities
  • Essential businesses that continue to operate facilities must scale down operations to their essential component only
  • Social distancing is the most powerful tool to slow the spread of COVID-19, a virus so new that it has no approved medicines or vaccines.

“What we need now, for the health of all our communities, is for people to stay home,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health. “Even though it has been difficult, the Bay Area has really stepped up to the challenge so far, and we need to reaffirm our commitment. We need more time to flatten the curve, to prepare our hospitals for a surge, and to do everything we can to minimize the harm that the virus causes to our communities.”

For more information about COVID-19 activities in these areas, visit the Contra Costa, Alameda, Marin, Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Mateo, or Berkeley COVID-19 websites.

What are the Major Changes this New Order (March 31, 2020) Makes to the County Health Officer’s Prior Shelter Order Issued on March 16?

The new Order extends the shelter in place requirements until 11:59 p.m. on May 3, 2020.

The new Order is also more restrictive in a number of ways. Major new restrictions include:

  1. Social distancing requirements are mandatory. Unless strict compliance is explicitly waived, everyone must comply with the social distancing requirements at all times.
  2. Before Friday, April 3, 2020, essential businesses that continue to operate facilities in the County must complete, post, and implement a social distancing protocol for each facility that remains open, using the template attached to the Order.
  3. Essential businesses must maximize the number of employees who work from home, excepting only those employees who cannot perform their job duties from home.
  4. Essential businesses that continue to operate facilities in the County must scale down operations to their essential component only.
  5. Businesses that supply products needed for people to work from home are no longer essential businesses under the Order, and must cease operations (except minimum basic operations) at facilities in the County.
  6. Use of playgrounds, dog parks, public picnic areas, and similar recreational areas is prohibited. These areas must be closed to public use.
  7. Use of shared public recreational facilities such as golf courses, tennis and basketball courts, pools, and rock walls is prohibited. These facilities must be closed for recreational use.
  8. Sports or activities that require use of shared equipment, like frisbees, basketballs, baseballs, and soccer balls, may only be engaged in by members of the same household.
  9. Most construction—residential and commercial—is prohibited. Exceptions are made for healthcare facility construction directly related to the COVID-19 response; affordable housing; public works projects when designated as essential by the lead governmental agency; shelters and temporary housing; projects necessary to provide critical services to certain vulnerable individuals; construction necessary to secure an existing construction site; and limited essential residential or business repairs. The new Order also makes important clarifications. Major clarifications include:
  10. Crowding at beaches, public parks, and open spaces has been a problem. The Health Officer, government, or entity that manages the space may adopt restrictions to reduce crowding and risk of COVID-19 transmission, including limiting number of entrants, restricting vehicular access, or complete closure.
  11. Essential businesses must follow industry-specific guidance issued by the County Health Officer related to COVID-19.
  12. Childcare facilities may only provide care to children or dependents of individuals working for essential businesses, providing essential governmental functions, or performing minimum basic operations for non-essential businesses.
  13. Individuals may move residences only if it is not possible to wait until the Order expires, such as if a move is already planned or if it is necessary for safety or habitability.
  14. Landscapers and similar service professionals may only provide services necessary to maintain the sanitation, habitability, or operation of residences or businesses, or for safety reasons. They may not provide services that are cosmetic or for general upkeep. For a complete list of significant changes, see the “Detailed Summary of Changes.” See page 3: 2020-0331-Summary-Superseding-Order-Changes
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Antioch Council to consider temporary moratorium on evictions during special meeting Tuesday night

Monday, March 30th, 2020

Will also discuss potential moratorium on rental increases and new fees

By Allen Payton

At the urging of residents’ concerns who submitted comments for last week’s council meeting, and were read aloud by City Clerk Arne Simonsen, and in response to the governor’s stay at home order, the Antioch City Council will consider an urgency ordinance placing a moratorium on temporary evictions during a special meeting, Tuesday night, March 31, 2020. (See agenda, here: ACC033120Special)

In the council agenda, it reads, “It is recommended that the City Council… adopt the urgency ordinance enacting a temporary moratorium on evictions for residential and commercial tenants financially impacted by the Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (“COVID-19”).”

According to the staff report, “The Ordinance applies to nonpayment eviction notices and unlawful detainer actions based on such notices, that are served or filed on or after March 16, 2020 and until the expiration of this Ordinance.  The Ordinance is currently set to expire on May 31, 2020, or the expiration of the local emergency or the Governor’s proclamation of a state of emergency, whichever is later. The City Council can take further action at a later date if it determines that the moratorium needs to be extended.”

Furthermore, “The Ordinance requires tenants to inform landlords in writing of their inability to pay full rent within 14 days after rent is due after they become aware of a substantial decrease in household income or business income or out-of-pocket medical expenses that would prevent them from paying full rent.”

The staff report also explains that a four-fifths (4/5) vote of the City Council is required for approval.

The council meeting will be held virtually, as the council members and staff stay at home, and can be viewed on Comcast Cable Channel 24 beginning at 7:00 p.m.

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Op-Ed: Help keep East Bay regional parks safe and open

Sunday, March 29th, 2020

View of Mt. Diablo from the Stewartville Trail in the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve on March 22, 2020. Photos by Allen Payton

A message from East Bay Regional Park District General Manager Robert E. Doyle

In the Bay Area we are blessed with over a million acres of beautiful public parkland. Californians love to get outdoors to enjoy nature and exercise, in fact they depend on it. For residents and their families it is an essential and fundamental part of their daily lives. Parks make lives better.

We are all currently facing the greatest health pandemic of the last 100 years, and a “Shelter in Place” order that must be taken seriously.

View from the Stewartville Trail on Sunday, March 22, 2020.

We want to help get everyone through this crisis by keeping our parks open, but the safety of the public – and that of our employees – has to be the highest priority. Like you, many of our staff are sheltering in place, taking care of themselves and their loved ones. This creates a significant challenge for keeping our parks open.

We have tried to keep our 73 parks and over 1,300 miles of trails open through this crisis, but what happened this past weekend was unsafe and distressing. Thousands of Bay Area residents headed to nature – overwhelming parks, parking areas, and staff. Overcrowding has already forced many of our fellow park agencies to consider closing.

Our current limited staff is doing its best to keep up with the community’s need to exercise and get outside. However, staff still needs to respond to emergencies, remove hazardous trees, and work on fuels reduction as we prepare, along with CalFire, for another serious fire season. I want to express my appreciation to all park staff everywhere, working hard during this emergency.

Many of our building facilities have been closed for some time to reduce the potential spread of the virus, including children’s play areas and structures, picnic areas, visitor centers, and campgrounds. For health and safety reasons, park restrooms and drinking fountains are also not available.

View of the Senator John A. Nejedly Bridge in Antioch from the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve on Sunday, March 22, 2020.

Bend The Curve

We need your help to keep our parks safe for you and our staff. Because of recent park overcrowding, use of picnic areas, and unsafe group gatherings and meet-ups, we have decided to “Temporarily Close” specific parks and park areas from Friday, March 27 through Thursday, April 30. A few parks are fully closed, while only some parking lots and access points are closed at others. We hope this will help us limit overcrowding and help “Bend the Curve.” For up-to-date information on park area closures go to www.ebparks.org/coronavirus.

We are coordinating with health departments daily. If unsafe overcrowding continues, or the public does not maintain social distancing – even for dogs – we may be forced to close additional areas. As Governor Newsom said last Monday, “We can’t bend the curve if everyone is out. I don’t want to close big, beautiful open spaces. But we can’t see what we saw over the weekend.”

I have received many emails, since we announced additional closures, concerned that their favorite park or parking area has been closed, or that restrooms are not open. On behalf of the Park District, I would like to thank the public for their understanding and cooperation. We have tried to spread closures across the District as best we can. However, safety is the priority.

The good news: as the largest regional park system in the nation, the vast majority of our parks, open space, and trails remain open, as are our 300-miles of paved regional trails.

If they are to remain open, we need your help. Together we can BEND THE CURVE!

Also, check our website before you go to see updates on any closures. Be sure to “go” before you go and wash your hands before and after your visit a park or trail. Bring hand sanitizer if you have it.

While the park district normally allows dogs off leash in many parks, because of the high use, for public safety and to maintain social distancing, the district is asking that dogs be on a leash.

Robert Doyle is general manager of the East Bay Regional Park District. Doyle has been with the Park District since 1975 and has served as General Manager since 2011. The East Bay Regional Park District is the largest park district of its kind in the United States with 73 regional parks on over 125,000 acres of open space.

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