Mask Mandate Returns to State Capitol Building Following New Outbreak

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

A small outbreak of COVID-19 cases in the State Capitol Building in the last week has led to the return of the mask mandate in the building on Tuesday.

According to a memo from Secretary of the Senate Erika Contreras and and Assembly Chief Administrative Officer Debra Gravert, face masks are required to be worn by all lawmakers and staff in the Capitol Building, the Legislative Office Building (LOB), and all district offices once again. In addition, all unvaccinated employees must be tested twice a week for COVID-19 beginning on Thursday. Vaccinated and unvaccinated people alike will need to adhere to the returning mandate, which had previously been dropped when the state reopened last month.

“Effective immediately, and in the short term, all Senators and staff are again required to wear a mask at all times while in the Capitol, Legislative Office Building (LOB) and district offices, regardless of vaccine status,” said Contreras in her memo.

A total of 9 cases had been reported in the Capitol building last week, with four of the nine cases those who are fully vaccinated, and seven of the nine coming from the same Assembly office. All nine who tested for COVID-19 also had worn masks while in the Capitol and had been observing state quarantine rules.

According to Contreras and Gravert, Senators and staff have a 85% vaccination rate, with the Assembly coming in with a nearly identical 84% rate. But, despite the number of vaccinated employees testing positive once again, staff were asked to please continue getting vaccinated, as it offered better protection than no vaccine.

“As we know from these most recent cases, even fully vaccinated individuals can be infected with COVID-19,” added Contreras in her memo. “However, public health experts indicate that fully vaccinated individuals are less likely to suffer the most serious symptoms of COVID-19, and for this reason, the Senate continues to encourage all staff to protect themselves by receiving the vaccine.”

The return of the mask mandate

For many Capitol employees, the return of the mask mandate brings back memories of sudden COVID-19 restriction shifts, such as the Senate and Assembly temporarily closing down following a COVID-19 outbreak in July 2020, and 10 possibly infected GOP Senators being barred from in-person voting in August 2020.

“It’s not as bad as the rollercoaster ride last year, but the masks coming back really feel s like a huge step back,” explained “Dana,” a Capitol staffer. “No one is happy about this. We had previously been given the all clear, and on some days, it was like everything was back to normal. But now the masks are back, just in time to help remind Senators and Assembly Members alike of COVID restrictions right before committee votes on COVID issues. Some think that it may influence some votes, the masks being a reminder and all, but honestly all it is is something most of us will grudgingly do for the next few weeks before more testing hopefully brings the requirement down once again.”

“But a lot of us also worry that it could be continued, with a new variant, like the delta variant, being given as a pretext to keep the masks for longer. A lot of us are really hoping that that will not happen.”

While no end date to the returning mandate was announced as of Wednesday, wording in the memos state that it will remain in place for a least “the short term.”

Evan V. Symon is the Senior Editor for the California Globe. Prior to the Globe, he reported for the Pasadena Independent, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and was head of the Personal Experiences section at Cracked. He can be reached at [email protected]

Guns Fuel Deadly Surge In L.A.

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Homicides are up 25% so far this year across Los Angeles, although the brunt of the increase has been felt in South Los Angeles, where killings have jumped 50% over the same time last year.

Shootings citywide, meanwhile, have spiked by half this year. Police and community activists are bracing for tough months ahead as the summer traditionally brings with it a rise in bloodshed.

As with the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise in violence has not been spread evenly in Los Angeles. Watts, Westmont, downtown Los Angeles, Westlake and other largely poor neighborhoods have endured much of the upheaval, though there have been some exceptions. The Los Angeles Police Department’s Wilshire division had recorded no homicides this time last year. It now has at least 10. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

Pomona School District Decides To Defund Police

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The Pomona decision comes amid increased pressure from activists in Los Angeles and elsewhere to reimagine school policing and eliminate patrols on campus, which some say can be traumatizing for students. Others have maintained that school police play a crucial role in keeping schools safe. Last month, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to reclaim its oversight authority to review Sheriff’s Department contracts with school districts.

“This is a milestone that has been met,” said Caroline Lucas, a Pomona youth organizer who advocated for the removal of officers at her school, Pomona High. “For me, it means that leaders can experiment with what transformative activists have been trying to do.”

The activist group Gente Organizada led the Pomona effort, which began in 2016 after a 16-year-old was the subject of a violent encounter with police officers at the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona. The officers were acquitted in an excessive-force case by a federal jury. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

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The California State Controller’s Office cast a spotlight on Fontana this week after updating its public pay database with figures for 2020. In the state ranking, Hunt surpassed the next closest city manager’s wages by roughly $350,000.

The high pay and the lack of explanation for it from Fontana has raised eyebrows among taxpayer advocates. While golden handshakes for public employees aren’t unusual, most are in the $500,000 to $600,000 range, experts said.

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Click here to read the full article from the OC Register.

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Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

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The nation’s most populous state is averaging close to 1,000 additional cases reported daily, an increase of about 17% in the last 14 days. Officials expected an increase when capacity limits were lifted for businesses and most mask restrictions and social distancing requirements were eliminated for vaccinated people.

But public health officials raised concern this week with the more transmissible delta variant spreading among the unvaccinated, who comprise the vast majority of new infections. LA County, where a quarter of the state’s nearly 40 million people live, recommended Monday that vaccinated residents resume wearing face coverings indoors after detecting that about half of all cases were the delta variant. …

Click here to read the full article from KTLA.com

California Advances Decriminalizing Psychedelic Substances

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The bill would allow those 21 and older to possess for personal use and “social sharing” psilocybin, the hallucinogenic component of so-called magic mushrooms. It also covers psilocyn, dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ibogaine, mescaline excluding peyote, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, often called ecstasy).

“People’s lives are literally transformed because of these substances,” said Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco, though he amended his bill to remove ketamine from the list. …

Click here to read the full article from the Associated Press.

S.F. Will Require All City Workers To Be Vaccinated

San Francisco will require all 35,000 city employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus once a vaccine receives full approval from the Food and Drug Administration, city officials said Wednesday.

The new policy makes San Francisco the first city or county in California — and probably the U.S. — to mandate COVID vaccinations for all government employees.

San Francisco previously announced that it will require employees to be vaccinated in high-risk settings, including hospitals, nursing homes and jails, regardless of whether they work for the city. The new policy will mandate vaccinations for all city employees, from police and firefighters to Muni operators and City Hall clerks and custodians. It does not cover teachers, who are school district employees. …

Click here to read the full article from the San Francisco Chronicle.

San Francisco-Run Homeless Encampment Costs $60K Per Tent

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The city’s six “safe sleeping villages,” provide homeless people tents, three meals per day, security and washrooms.

The city is looking to renew the program for a cost of about $57,000 per tent, of which there are about 260.

The Chronicle noted that if the funding is approved, the city will be paying about twice the median cost of a one-bedroom apartment for each tent. …

Click here to read the full article from the NY Post.

New Mask Rules for California Capitol: Face Coverings For All

California lawmakers, legislative staff and public visitors will still be required to wear face coverings in certain areas of the Capitol regardless of vaccination status, according to internal memos sent on Tuesday to members and employees.

Everyone must wear face coverings in common areas like elevators, hallways, stairs, restrooms, committee rooms and the Senate and Assembly chambers, Secretary of the Senate Erika Contreras and Assembly Rules Chief Administrative Officer Debra Gravert wrote in similar emails.

District employees will also have to wear masks while in shared spaces, and adhere to office building and landlord rules.

Members and staff who are fully vaccinated are allowed to take their masks off while in their own offices, regardless of others’ vaccination status. They can also attend work events without the face coverings. …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee