Pablo Unzueta / CalMatters

New CDC Advice: Most Vaccinated Californians Should Wear Masks Indoors

Nearly all vaccinated Californians should return to wearing masks indoors under new federal guidelines issued today for areas where COVID-19 is surging. The new guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control apply to regions with “high or substantial” transmission rates, which includes 45 of California’s 58 counties and about 96% of its nearly 40 million people. The guidelines would cover all of California’s most populous counties. The counties, with lower COVID-19 rates, that are not...

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Rich Pedroncelli / AP Photo

Eric Szaras, a 37-year old Santa Monica resident and registered Democrat, said he called EDD more than 270 times in the space of a week and a half after his account was frozen due to suspected fraud. 

Cynthia Rene Brown, a 64-year-old Los Angeles resident and registered Republican, said she was so frantic that she hired consultants to help her reach EDD, ultimately paying them nearly $4,000 of the $16,000 in benefits she received.

“My opinion of Gavin Newsom has gotten worse since the pandemic and sunk even more with the EDD issues,” Brown said in an email — her cell phone service had been cut off while she awaited benefits. “He just pointed fingers and played the blame game.” 

Silver doesn’t discuss politics on her YouTube channel. But the conclusion she’s drawn from spending 30 to 40 hours a week helping Californians is inherently a political one. 

“Claimants should not need to come to a random person on the internet in order to obtain these answers.”  

 

Had Ivy Bland been able to access more than $9,000 of locked unemployment benefits, she and her husband might have been able to put off their move to Florida. 

Had Lindsay Green’s benefits not been frozen due to suspected fraud, she might have kept her medical, dental and car insurance — and not been forced to go on food stamps.

Had Susan Baker’s unemployment payments not suddenly stopped, she might have avoided dipping into her savings to make house payments. 

On the other hand, had the state Employment Development Department’s system worked perfectly, Ginny Silver might still have only 37 subscribers to her YouTube channel

Instead, she has more than 72,000. 

The 36-year-old Elk Grove mother of two posts daily videos demystifying the inner workings of EDD by discussing work search requirements, pending payments and tricks for reaching the notoriously backlogged call centers. More than 1 million people watch her videos a month, enough for Silver — who went on unemployment at the beginning of the pandemic when her wedding photography business shut down — to not only get off unemployment herself but also hire an assistant. 

She currently makes more money from her EDD videos than she does from her photography business, which resumed once California began to reopen. 

People “shouldn’t have to go to a random person on the internet compiling these government documents,” Silver said. “But because the EDD’s communication, website and customer service departments are so inaccessible and confusing, unfortunately, they do come to my channel for that.” 

“So while I am happy I have a channel, it should not have a need to exist.” 

California’s unemployment department has consistently been one of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s biggest political liabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of jobless residents’ claims have been backlogged for weeks at a time even as EDD paid out an estimated $31 billion in fraudulent claims, including $1 billion to prison and jail inmates. With account freezesjammed phone lines and pervasive tech glitches blocking unemployed Californians from the funds they needed to stay afloat, many called their lawmakers for help, desperate and even on the brink of suicide

After forming a strike team in July 2020 to overhaul EDD’s outdated technology, Newsom largely avoided commenting directly on the beleaguered department. But his administration has begun to do so, suggesting he’s aware EDD’s shortcomings could be top of mind for a potentially sizable number of voters in the Sept. 14 recall election

On April 26, the same day Secretary of State Shirley Weber said enough signatures had been gathered to force a recall election, Newsom’s unemployment fraud task force announced it had arrested 68 people and opened another 1,641 cases. 

On July 20, the day before Weber certified the final list of recall candidates, the Newsom administration said it had hired a former federal prosecutor to help crack down on unemployment fraud. On July 22, EDD announced it would start automatically paying benefits to certain jobless Californians to help reduce the mountain of unresolved claims. 

Rich Pedroncelli / AP Photo

Eric Szaras, a 37-year old Santa Monica resident and registered Democrat, said he called EDD more than 270 times in the space of a week and a half after his account was frozen due to suspected fraud. 

Cynthia Rene Brown, a 64-year-old Los Angeles resident and registered Republican, said she was so frantic that she hired consultants to help her reach EDD, ultimately paying them nearly $4,000 of the $16,000 in benefits she received.

“My opinion of Gavin Newsom has gotten worse since the pandemic and sunk even more with the EDD issues,” Brown said in an email — her cell phone service had been cut off while she awaited benefits. “He just pointed fingers and played the blame game.” 

Silver doesn’t discuss politics on her YouTube channel. But the conclusion she’s drawn from spending 30 to 40 hours a week helping Californians is inherently a political one. 

“Claimants should not need to come to a random person on the internet in order to obtain these answers.”  

 

Had Ivy Bland been able to access more than $9,000 of locked unemployment benefits, she and her husband might have been able to put off their move to Florida. 

Had Lindsay Green’s benefits not been frozen due to suspected fraud, she might have kept her medical, dental and car insurance — and not been forced to go on food stamps.

Had Susan Baker’s unemployment payments not suddenly stopped, she might have avoided dipping into her savings to make house payments. 

On the other hand, had the state Employment Development Department’s system worked perfectly, Ginny Silver might still have only 37 subscribers to her YouTube channel

Instead, she has more than 72,000. 

The 36-year-old Elk Grove mother of two posts daily videos demystifying the inner workings of EDD by discussing work search requirements, pending payments and tricks for reaching the notoriously backlogged call centers. More than 1 million people watch her videos a month, enough for Silver — who went on unemployment at the beginning of the pandemic when her wedding photography business shut down — to not only get off unemployment herself but also hire an assistant. 

She currently makes more money from her EDD videos than she does from her photography business, which resumed once California began to reopen. 

People “shouldn’t have to go to a random person on the internet compiling these government documents,” Silver said. “But because the EDD’s communication, website and customer service departments are so inaccessible and confusing, unfortunately, they do come to my channel for that.” 

“So while I am happy I have a channel, it should not have a need to exist.” 

California’s unemployment department has consistently been one of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s biggest political liabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of jobless residents’ claims have been backlogged for weeks at a time even as EDD paid out an estimated $31 billion in fraudulent claims, including $1 billion to prison and jail inmates. With account freezesjammed phone lines and pervasive tech glitches blocking unemployed Californians from the funds they needed to stay afloat, many called their lawmakers for help, desperate and even on the brink of suicide

After forming a strike team in July 2020 to overhaul EDD’s outdated technology, Newsom largely avoided commenting directly on the beleaguered department. But his administration has begun to do so, suggesting he’s aware EDD’s shortcomings could be top of mind for a potentially sizable number of voters in the Sept. 14 recall election

On April 26, the same day Secretary of State Shirley Weber said enough signatures had been gathered to force a recall election, Newsom’s unemployment fraud task force announced it had arrested 68 people and opened another 1,641 cases. 

On July 20, the day before Weber certified the final list of recall candidates, the Newsom administration said it had hired a former federal prosecutor to help crack down on unemployment fraud. On July 22, EDD announced it would start automatically paying benefits to certain jobless Californians to help reduce the mountain of unresolved claims. 

Sammy Caiola / CapRadio

As the Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly, causing case rates to increase dramatically, Sacramento community leaders and county officials have one message: For your community’s health and your own, get vaccinated.

In California, about 60% of all residents are at least partially vaccinated. Sacramento County falls short of that, with 55% of people receiving at least one dose of the vaccine.

Jeff Chiu / AP Photo

California health officials are recommending all residents wear masks in indoor public spaces regardless of vaccination status as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise.

The announcement comes after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance asking people to wear masks indoors in regions with “high or substantial” transmission rates. More than 90% of Californians live in counties meeting that threshold.

New CDC Advice: Most Vaccinated Californians Should Wear Masks Indoors

Jul 27, 2021
Pablo Unzueta / CalMatters

Nearly all vaccinated Californians should return to wearing masks indoors under new federal guidelines issued today for areas where COVID-19 is surging. 

The new guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control apply to regions with “high or substantial” transmission rates, which includes 45 of California’s 58 counties and about 96% of its nearly 40 million people.

Tash Kimmell / CalMatters

California took a major step today towards regulating dangerous “forever chemicals” in drinking water by proposing new health limits for two of the most pervasive contaminants. 

State environmental health officials recommended goals of one part per trillion and less — a minuscule amount 70 times smaller than the federal government’s non-binding guideline for drinking water nationwide.

Jeff Chiu / AP Photo

If your time is short:

  • A 2015 California law eliminated personal belief exemptions for vaccinations required of children attending schools. Currently, flu, HPV and COVID-19 vaccinations are not on that list.
  • COVID-19 vaccinations have yet to be approved for children under the age of 12.

Outgunned: Why California’s Groundbreaking Firearms Law Is Failing

Jul 25, 2021

Two decades ago, California legislators added a new weapon to the state’s growing arsenal of gun-control measures, already among the toughest in the nation. Their motivation came from 2,000 miles away in a shaken Chicago suburb.

Jae C. Hong / AP Photo

Kelli Dillon still remembers all of the emotions she felt when she realized she had been forcibly sterilized by the state of California. 

“I was angry, I was hurt, I was scared, I was sad, I felt despaired,” Dillon said. “Basically you drugged me, and you performed this heinous act against me. It’s like a form of rape.” 

Two years ago the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power shut off electricity at Will Hollman’s home in the San Fernando Valley, forcing the family to rely on a gasoline generator. In late June of this year, the department disconnected the water, too — despite a statewide moratorium on water shutoffs that Gov. Gavin Newsom recently extended through Sept. 30.

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