Fri 5/15/2020 8:37 AM

  •  Scott Wilk <swilk@wilkforca.com>

COVID-19 Update – May 15, 2020

Stay At Home Order Day 58

Today is day 58 of the statewide “Stay-at-Home” Order. 66 days ago, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a Pandemic.   Safer at Home orders have been in place in Los Angeles since March 19.

Air Force Thunderbirds

The Air Force’s Thunderbirds will honor frontline COVID-19 responders and essential workers today with formation flights over San Diego, Los Angeles and parts of Ventura County.   A formation of six F-16C/D Fighting Falcons will conduct the flyovers as a salute to health care workers, first responders, military and other essential personnel.  The squadron will begin its Southland flyover at 1:35 pm, passing over Orange County, cruising north over Irvine, Santa Ana, Garden Grove and Fullerton.  Around Anaheim, they’ll veer north to El Monte. Based on EKA’s reading of the map the Thunderbirds released, they’ll swoop across Monterey Park, East L.A. and on the southern edge of downtown Los Angeles. Then the jets will parallel the north side of the 10 on their way to Santa Monica. They’ll cruise south along the coast for a little before heading back inland around Hermosa Beach.  Near the intersection of the 110 and the 91 they’ll head toward Long Beach and then along the OC coastline. By Newport Beach, they’ll turn back inland toward Costa Mesa, Santa Ana and then the Santa Ana Mountains. And that’s just in that first half-hour. From 2 to 2:10 pm, they’ll make a loop around Riverside. Although not listed, it appears that they will refuel at Pt. Mugu before making a second pass through the Southland.  From 3:05 to 3:10 pm, they’ll cross over Camarillo and Simi Valley toward Santa Clarita. To see a map of the exact area, click here.  (Yes, the author of this post is a big Air Show fan)


Health Officer Order

A new Health Officer Order was issued that replaced the previous Order.  Because of several confusing media reports, the EKA team has been asked several questions about the new Order.  The Health Order allows for retailers and manufacturers, select recreational facilities and beaches to reopen. All retailers can reopen for curbside, door-side, outside pickup, or delivery only. Manufacturing and logistic businesses that supply retail businesses can also reopen. Before retail businesses, manufacturing and logistic businesses reopen, they are required to prepare, implement and post their plan for adhering to directives, including distancing and infection control practices that protect both employees and customers. Select recreational facilities including golf courses, tennis courts, shooting and archery ranges, equestrian centers, bike parks, and community gardens can also reopen. Beaches are open for active recreation only including running, walking, swimming and surfing.  Under the Order, everyone must continue to practice physical distancing of at least six feet apart and wear a clean cloth face covering that securely covers both your nose and mouth when you are out and around people outside of your household all the time. The Order continues to require that specific higher-risk businesses remain closed and prohibits public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household or living unit.

Public Health is assessing the activities allowed by the Order on an ongoing basis and modify the Order as appropriate. Currently, LA County is in stage two of the five-stage Roadmap to Recovery  and until the final stage five is reached.  To view Public Health’s COVID-19 Surveillance Dashboard, click here.

Metro’s Plan To Restore Bus And Rail Service

Metro will be implementing a four-phase plan for restoring bus and rail service. After Los Angeles County issued its Safer-At-Home Orders, Metro ridership fell by about 70 percent.  Under the recovery plan, Metro will be increasing bus and rail service between now and early 2021. Metro’s four-phase plan is as follows:

  • Phase 1 is projected to take place in June with some modest gains in service on our busiest corridors to accommodate returning non-essential trips.
  • Phase 2 is projected to take place as early as July and August with additional service with an eye toward providing transit service for students returning to school and additional people returning to work.
  • Phase 3 may be implemented between September and November and include modest gains in service in areas where and when we see demand growing.
  • Phase 4 is projected to take place between December and January and is expected to begin implementing changes and enhancements proposed under our ongoing bus restructuring effort — called NextGen.

Business Cleaning Practices

LA County has developed a useful guide on cleaning and disinfection practices for rooms or areas within your place of business.  To view the Department of Public Health’s (DPH) complete Cleaning & Disinfection Guide for businesses, click here.  To view cleaning and disinfection guidance for healthcare facilities, households, or other locations, click here. To view OSHA’s Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, click here.   As a reminder, if you need assistance with cleaning, EKA’s client ANCON is a turnkey industrial service company that provides decontamination services, as well as Bio-Haz emergency and planned responses.  Caltrans, homeless camp clean-ups have used ANCON as well as the LA and Long Beach Ports, cruise lines, and companies like Walmart and Target. If you are interested in utilizing ANCON’s services to decontaminate your business or facility professionally, please reach out to EKA, and we will be happy to connect you.

Marriage Licenses
For the first time in about two months, couples will be able to make marriage license appointments in Los Angeles County beginning Monday. The Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, which closed all of its offices to the public March 16 said it has been working to implement an executive order earlier this month by California Gov. Gavin Newsom allowing marriage licenses to be issued utilizing videoconferencing.  The county will post information Monday on how to make an appointment
for marriage licenses.  For more information, click here.


Executive Orders

Several people have inquired where they can find Governor Newsom’s Executive Orders.  All the Governor’s Executive Orders can be found here. 

Budget Revision

In the face of a global health crisis that has triggered a global financial crisis, Governor Newsom submitted his 2020-21 May Revision budget proposal to the Legislature – a balanced plan to close a budget gap of more than $54 billion brought on swiftly by the COVID-19 recession. The new $203.3 billion budget proposal would cut funding for public pensions, draw down reserves and borrow money from internal accounts to make up for a projected $54.3 billion budget deficit brought on by COVID-19. In California alone, more than 4.2 million people have filed for unemployment since mid-March, when the Governor issued the Stay-at-Home Order. He’s proposing to cut wages by 10 percent for California’s 240,000 state workers, according to state government’s largest union, SEIU Local 1000. The single biggest cut listed in a budget summary is the elimination of $2.4 billion in supplemental payments to California’s largest public pension plans, CalPERS and CalSTRS. The Governor’s office expects revenue to the state general fund to fall by $41.2 billion below his January budget proposal.   The estimate reflects a steep drop from January when his office projected a rising economy that would yield a $5.6 billion state budget surplus and support a $222 billion spending plan. At the time, he proposed new funding for preschools, homelessness and health care programs that would benefit undocumented seniors.

The Governor said he expects the state’s unemployment rate could rise as high as 25 percent. Earlier this year, it was 3.9 percent. There is some debate about Newsom’s projected deficit. The independent Legislative Analyst’s Office last week estimated a deficit in the range of $18 billion to $31 billion, a projection that took into account how the state could use reserves to avoid cuts and that assumed lawmakers would not fund the new programs the Governor proposed in January.

The Governor for weeks has urged Congress to provide states and local governments with $1 trillion in economic relief to prevent cuts to public safety, education and health programs. House Democrats this week released a proposal that would allocate much of what Newsom has sought, while the National Governors Association has proposed a $500 billion plan for states. Click here to see details on the May Revision. 

Evicting Businesses And Nonprofits During The COVID-19

Senators Scott Wiener and Lena Gonzalez amended SB 939, which places a moratorium on commercial evictions of small businesses and nonprofits for the duration of the COVID-19 health emergency. The new amendments would give businesses the ability to renegotiate a lease if they have lost over 40% of their revenue due to COVID-19 restrictions and if they will operate at reduced capacity due to social distancing requirements. If the landlord and tenant cannot come to a new lease agreement, the tenant could terminate the lease with no penalty. SB 939’s lease renegotiation provisions will not apply to publicly owned companies, or businesses owned by publicly-owned entities.


PPP Loan Review

If your company received a loan of less than $2 million under the Paycheck Protection Program, the new message from the Small Business Administration is that you’re OK. According to the SBA, companies that accepted Paycheck Protection Program funds of less than $2 million will be assumed to have performed the required certification concerning the necessity of their loan requests in good faith.  The SBA provided guidance (See Question 46) in Treasury’s Q&As related to the PPP.  It states that borrowers with loans of more than $2 million may still have an adequate basis for making the required good-faith certification, based on their individual circumstances and the language of the certification and SBA guidance. The clarification comes after Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said last month that the SBA would be reviewing PPP recipients who received more than $2 million to be sure that they needed those funds given their large size. 

Health Screenings

In yesterday’s update regarding Health Screenings, we noted that the EEOC has taken the position that temperature screening, symptom and exposure screening, and COVID-testing are all permissible tools for employers to consider when bringing employees back to work.  Our update did not include the reminder that we had in previous updates regarding the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).  As a reminder, notices to employees and the public are required to be compliant under the CCPA when performing temperature screenings.  We should note that the EEOC continues to update guidance to employers regarding best practices for balancing obligations under the ADA while still complying with guidelines from the CDC. The EEOC reminds employers that “[t]he ADA and the Rehabilitation Act do not interfere with employers following advice from the CDC and other public health authorities on appropriate steps to take relating to the workplace” regarding COVID-19. To view the EEOC updated guidance, click here.    As a reminder, the CCPA applies to for-profit businesses that collect the personal information of California residents and meet at least one of the following thresholds: (1) have annual gross revenue of $25 million or more; (2) annually buy, receive, or share the personal information of 50,000 or more consumers for commercial purposes; or (3) derive 50 percent or more of their annual revenue from selling the personal information of California residents. Despite recent requests from business organizations to delay enforcement of the CCPA until the emergency situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic passes, the California Attorney General has declined to do so and has indicated that it is committed to begin enforcement of the CCPA on July 1, 2020.


As we briefly mentioned in our last update, Speaker Pelosi unveiled a more than $3 trillion coronavirus aid package (Known as the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or HEROES Act) with hazard pay for essential workers and a new round of cash payments to individuals. The Democrats’ Heroes Act is built around nearly $1 trillion for states, cities and tribal governments to avert layoffs, focused chiefly on $375 billion for smaller suburban and rural municipalities largely left out of earlier bills. The bill will offer a fresh round of $1,200 direct cash aid to individuals, increased to up to $6,000 per household, and launches a $175 billion housing assistance fund to help pay rents and mortgages. There is $75 billion more for virus testing.  The House is expected to vote on the package as soon as today.  To read the bill, click here. Don’t’ hit send to your printer; the legislation is 1,800 pages.

Federal COVID-19 Regulatory Updates

The regulatory environment is continually changing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the EKA team is working on keeping you as informed as possible. There may be potential discrepancies as COVID-19 regulatory changes continue to occur. If you believe there may be a discrepancy affecting your business, please consult with your legal counsel for further advice. To view the various federal response to COVID-19, click here.

CDC Releases Guidance on Reopening

To help businesses navigate reopening their businesses safely, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created a decision tree to use in accordance with state and local health departments. The White House did not like the document and made the CDC take it down.  The EKA team was able to find the deleted document online.  The three questions employers should ask based on the decision tree are:  (1) Should you consider opening, (2) Are recommended safety actions in place and (3) Is ongoing monitoring in place?  Each question has several considerations for employers to review as they plan their reopening. The big takeaway is that reopening your business won’t be a small task, and keeping your employees and workplace safe is an ongoing process even after you reopen. Click here to view the document that was removed from the CDC website.


Coronavirus Drives Health Insurers Back To Obamacare

United Healthcare, the nation’s biggest insurer, on Tuesday said it’s re-entering Maryland’s Obamacare market and planning other expansions after abandoning 34 states’ ACA exchanges since 2016. Anthem and Cigna have also made incremental moves over the past two years. To read the full story, click here.

Trouble For Gavin Newsom’s $1 Billion Mask Deal: Feds Reject Safety Certification 

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s assertion that shipments of medical masks the state bought from a Chinese manufacturer had simply been delayed because of federal safety certification issues was thrown into doubt Wednesday when regulators said they had actually rejected the masks. Many of the N95 particulate-filtering respirators California planned to buy from supplier BYD in a $1 billion deal are now in limbo while the company tries to secure safety certification. To read the full story, click here.

Overhaul Starts At Long Beach Airport Even As COVID-19 Throws Project’s Future Into Question

Long Beach Airport will slowly begin work on an $80 million overhaul of its facility despite plummeting passenger numbers worldwide. The City Council gave the go-ahead to start when it approves a $3.9 million portion of the contract Tuesday night. That limited chunk of money will go toward improvements to the checked baggage inspection system and the underground systems, including utilities, foundation, and concrete slab. Some of the money will also go to a proposed new ticketing building, but actual construction of that building will be put on hold due to the financial uncertainty brought on by COVID-19.  To read the full story, click here.

U.S. Says China Trying to Steal COVID-19 Vaccine Research

U.S. authorities warned Wednesday that Chinese hackers were attempting to steal coronavirus data on treatments and vaccines, adding fuel to Washington’s war with Beijing over the pandemic. The FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) said organizations researching COVID-19 were at risk of “targeting and network compromise” by China. They warned that Chinese government-affiliated groups and others were attempting to obtain “valuable intellectual property and public health data related to vaccines, treatments, and testing.” To read the full story, click here.

Eighteen Of California’s 58 Counties Have Received State Approval To Further Ease Coronavirus restrictions, but major population centers such as the San Francisco Bay Area are choosing not to relax stay-at-home orders for now. As of Thursday, 18 counties are eligible to move to Expanded Stage 2 of California’s four-stage reopening plan, according to the California Department of Public Health. They include Yuba and Sutter, counties that last week had moved to further ease restrictions without state approval.  To read the full story, click here.

 Government By Executive Order: State Emergency Law Gives Governor Broad Power In Pandemic

It was another Wednesday in California’s long lockdown spring, and late in the day Gov. Gavin Newsom signed off on Executive Order N-54-20.The four pages of text began with seven “whereas” clauses laying out the reasons and purpose for what followed: a dozen densely worded paragraphs, suspending timelines and waiving requirements embedded in obscure corners of state regulations, from the Vehicle Code to the Public Resources Code.  To read the full story, click here. 

Another 3 Million Americans File Jobless Claims As Layoffs Continue To Ravage Economy

The nation’s weekly procession of COVID-19-related layoffs seems relentless. About three million Americans filed initial unemployment benefit claims last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, spotlighting another wave of job cuts and adding to the unprecedented economic damage wrought by the pandemic. In the past week, companies such as Uber, General Electric and Airbnb have laid off thousands of workers. More than 36 million workers now have sought jobless benefits in eight weeks. To read the full story, click here.

 L.A. County Sees 100-Plus Hate Incidents Tied To Coronavirus

Citing an increase in hate-related incidents toward those with Asian or Pacific Islander ethnicity during the coronavirus pandemic, Los Angeles County officials are encouraging victims to make reports to local law enforcement. From February to April, the county had more than 100 reports of hate incidents related to the pandemic.  To read the full story, click here.

Shocking New Video: Blood-Soaked’ Wet Markets’ Still Open Across Asia

As the novel coronavirus continues to sicken and kill people worldwide, PETA is releasing new video footage, recorded in the past few weeks, showing filthy live-animal markets full of dogs, bats, monkeys, civets, and snakes still operating in China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, and Thailand. The video shows live civets (who’ve been linked to SARS) and bats (who’ve been linked to COVID-19) being sold in Indonesia as well as monkeys, birds, and cats being held in cages, all of which were covered with layers of rotten food and feces, on top of and directly next to each other. One rabbit convulsed and died right in front of the investigator. In Thailand, ducks and chickens (who’ve been linked to avian flu) were crammed wing to wing in cages. In the Philippines, workers wearing flip-flops walked across blood-soaked floors and cut up pig and bird carcasses with their bare hands. In Vietnam, the cooked heads and other body parts of dogs were piled on a counter near living animals. Blood, guts, and water covered the floors at every market.  To read the full story, click here.

 What Is A COVID-19 Surcharge? Why Some Restaurants Are Adding An Extra Fee To Your Bill

Like many restaurants across the country, Kiko Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Lounge in West Plains, Missouri, has struggled to keep its menu prices low as the cost of food quickly rises. To help manage costs during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the restaurant recently implemented a “COVID-19 surcharge.” So far, customers — and plenty of people on social media — have had very mixed reactions.  To read the full story, click here.

Elon Musk Vs California Vs Covid-19: A Timeline, From ‘Dumb’ To Defiance

Elon Musk is not your conventional CEO content with the conventional ways of doing things. No. That’s just not his style, some say. And yet, his rather eccentric style has earned him admirers and critics in equal measure, often landing him and his company in major trouble. There is perhaps no denying that there are streaks of genius in how the 48-year-old conducts himself and his business practices and yet, he has the tendency to leave most people rather exasperated through his, for the lack of a better adjective, antics. To read the full story, click here.

McDonald’s Sets Conditions for Restaurant Re-openings 

McDonald’s Corp. is asking restaurant owners in the U.S. to make dozens of changes to ease coronavirus concerns before reopening their dining rooms, including commitments to clean bathrooms every half-hour and digital kiosks after each Order.  The world’s largest fast-food company by sales is also asking its hundreds of U.S. franchisees to enforce social distancing in its restaurants, and either close their public soda fountains or deploy a staff member to monitor them, according to a 59-page dine-in reopening guide viewed by The Wall Street Journal. To read the full story, click here.

Virus Whistleblower Tells Lawmakers U.S. Lacks Vaccine Plan

Despite White House claims, the U.S. still lacks a comprehensive battle plan against the coronavirus in critical areas including masks, testing, treatments and vaccines, whistleblower Rick Bright warned Thursday in testimony before a House committee. “Our window of opportunity is closing,” he declared. The nation could face “the darkest winter in modern history” if the virus rebounds, the government vaccine scientist told lawmakers. Bright’s appearance came after his ouster last month as head of a Health and Human Services biodefense agency, an action he alleges was retaliation by the Trump administration. To read the full story, click here.

‘Love & Hip Hop’ Star Blew PPP Loan On Rolex, Child Support, Feds Say

A star on VH1’s “Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta” allegedly scammed the federal government’s coronavirus loan program out of more than $2 million — and blew much of the cash on jewelry and child support payments, authorities said Wednesday. Maurice “Mo” Fayne — who appeared in the reality-TV show’s eighth season — made his first court appearance Wednesday in Georgia on federal bank fraud charges, according to the US Department of Justice.To read the full story, click here.