Newsletter: This county will pay COVID-19 patients to stay home

Downtown Oakland as seen from Interstate 880  in January 2017.
(George Rose / Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, Aug. 7.

The mandate seems simple enough in theory: If you test positive for the coronavirus, stay home.

Do not see friends, go to the market or visit family. And most definitely do not show up at work.

But what if you are living paycheck to paycheck while working a job that doesn’t necessarily provide access to paid sick leave for days? What if you simply can’t afford to miss two weeks of work?


A quarantine order isn’t going to pay for your basic living necessities. It won’t put food on the table, buy diapers or set aside money for your cellphone or internet bill while you stay home. But that’s what this East Bay pilot program aims to do.

On Tuesday, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a pilot program to give some residents diagnosed with the coronavirus a $1,250 one-time stipend — essentially paying them to stay home and isolate.

“What we heard — through our conversations with [residents], or the conversations they were having with contact investigators and tracers — was that many of them just could not afford to lose two weeks’ worth of wages to quarantine and isolate,” Vanessa Cedeño, who serves as policy director for Alameda Supervisor Wilma Chan, said. Supervisor Chan, whose district includes the cities of Alameda, San Leandro and parts of Oakland, spearheaded the program.

[See also: “Tracking coronavirus in Alameda County” in the Los Angeles Times]

“If people are afraid to get tested or they cannot isolate safely when they’re COVID positive, then our efforts to contain the virus are not going to be as successful,” Cedeño continued. Fundamental safety net services like food delivery for coronavirus patients may help fill some of the gaps. “But at the end of the day, you can’t meet everybody’s basic needs. Sometimes people just need the money.”

The $1,250 figure comes from looking at the two cities with the highest minimum wages in Alameda County (Berkeley and Emeryville, at $15.59 and $16.30, respectively) and then accounting for the equivalent of what would be two 40-hour workweeks. The model is based on a similar San Francisco program, which provides eligible coronavirus-positive low-wage workers with a stipend that correlates to that city’s minimum wage.

The Alameda County pilot program will be place-based and designed with an equity lens, targeting primarily communities of color in the areas with the highest case rates.


Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors vote approved the allocation of $10 million, which will cover about approximately 7,500 participants. Cedeño said the county would like to be able to continue and expand beyond the initial pilot.

In order to be eligible, an individual must be referred by a designated clinic in one of five high-risk neighborhoods, have tested positive for the coronavirus and not be receiving unemployment benefits or paid sick leave. Immigration status will not be taken into account.

The county is still exploring options for delivering the stipend to residents, including potentially using pre-paid debit cards. They hope to launch the program within the next few weeks.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

The death toll from the coronavirus in California surpassed 10,000 people on Thursday, a mark that underscores how a state that was once hailed as a pandemic success story is now struggling to slow outbreaks. The surge of the coronavirus in California over the last two months had several causes, including the reopening of the economy that allowed COVID-19 to spread rapidly among low-wage workers, many of them Latino essential workers whose employers haven’t followed new infection control rules. But summer celebrations among young people are also a recurring problem, and one particularly frustrating to officials trying to slow outbreaks. Los Angeles Times


Inside the “culture of violence” alleged by an LAPD SWAT whistleblower: An LAPD sergeant is accusing a group of veteran officers known as the “SWAT Mafia” of creating a culture in the unit that glorifies deadly force, and he alleges that commanders turned a “blind eye” to the problems despite his flagging them internally. Los Angeles Times


The advent of outdoor co-working: A Long Beach co-working space has moved its shared workspace outside and into a parklet, transforming two street parking spaces at its front entrance into a 200-square-foot outdoor office, complete with WiFi and power access. Long Beach Business Journal

AMC Theatres, the world’s largest cinema operator, lost $561 million in its most recent quarter as revenue collapsed because of the pandemic. The earnings release comes shortly after AMC and Universal Pictures made a historic deal to shorten the theatrical window for certain movies to as little as 17 days, compared to the average 90 days for big Hollywood films. Los Angeles Times

What’s a celebrity stylist to do with nary a red carpet in sight? The people who earn their livings dressing stars for award shows, premieres and photo shoots have had to pivot hard. Los Angeles Times

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Amid a coronavirus outbreak at a Bakersfield immigration facility, emails show that ICE deliberately limited testing. The email exchange, obtained by lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union and the public defender’s office of San Francisco, provides a strikingly candid look at how ICE has failed to contain the spread of the coronavirus in its facilities, critics of the agency contend. Los Angeles Times


President Trump has signed an executive order that will ban the viral video app TikTok in the U.S. in 45 days. A separate order bans WeChat, the popular communications app owned by Tencent. Los Angeles Times


Prospects for a quick deal to extend supplemental unemployment benefits have taken a sharp turn for the worse, leaving millions of Americans in the lurch a week after many benefits expired. Los Angeles Times

If you thought that Rep. Devin Nunes’ legal war against a fake Twitter cow would disappear just because we are in the midst of a once-in-a-century pandemic, you thought wrong. After a judge issued a second ruling saying the Central Valley congressman could not sue Twitter over the parody account pretending to be Nunes’ cow, Nunes filed a new complaint in the same court again attempting to sue Twitter over the fake cow and a few other things. Fresno Bee

California’s legislative leaders are asking the state’s Judicial Council for more time before renter evictions resume during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying they are facing “an impossible decision” between rushing legislation and leaving millions of tenants unprotected. The Judicial Council, which oversees the state’s court system, could lift the suspension on evictions as early as Aug. 14. Los Angeles Times


Poseidon’s Huntington Beach desalination plant is still in choppy waters: As Poseidon Water pursues the final government approvals needed to build one of the country’s biggest seawater desalination plants, the company still cannot definitively say who will buy the 50 million gallons a day of drinking water it wants to produce on the Orange County coast. Los Angeles Times

The AES Huntington Beach Generating Station adjoins the proposed site of the Poseidon Water desalination project
Poseidon Water wants to build a seawater desalination plant next to the AES Huntington Beach Generating Station.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)


Uber generated more revenue from delivering food than transporting people for the first time last quarter, but it failed to offset a steep and prolonged decline in ridership brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Los Angeles Times


COVID comfort ratings for Orange County restaurants. Restaurant critic Brad A. Johnson says O.C. restaurants lag behind those in other counties when it comes to coronavirus safety compliance, so he’s created a new ratings system to help people make better decisions about where to eat during the pandemic. Orange County Register

A north Fresno gym owner allegedly tried to recruit people to act as lookouts for “dumb” COVID-19 code enforcers, so that classes could resume before they were allowed. Fresno Bee

In a San Francisco housing market hit hard by the fallout of COVID-19, the price of rent is increasingly up for negotiation. Thinking of negotiating with your own landlord? Go in prepared with these tips from successful negotiators, real estate professionals and tenants’ rights activists. SF Gate

Peak Silicon Valley: This tech founder dresses in a different elaborate costume each day for his company’s daily Zoom calls. SF Gate

A poem to start your Friday: “Try to Praise the Mutilated World” by Adam Zagajewski. Poetry Foundation

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Los Angeles: partly sunny, 78. San Diego: partly sunny, 73. San Francisco: partly cloudy, 67. San Jose: partly cloudy, 80. Fresno: sunny, 94. Sacramento: sunny, 93. More weather is here.



Today’s California memory comes from Randall Barnes:

In third grade, we had a field trip to Griffith Park. We visited the observatory, then the bus drove us down the hill to the grassy park. We got our bag lunches out, ate and climbed trees. In the middle of our fun, suddenly our teacher ran out into the park, urgently yelling for us to hurry back onto the bus. Disappointed that our fun was cut off, we boarded and sat. The teacher and the driver stood at the front; shockingly, they were crying. When they asked us to fold our hands to pray, we giggled at the idea. Through her sobbing, she said a prayer. John F. Kennedy had just been killed.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.