A roundup of the biggest news stories in California this week, including a coronavirus update and the latest from Sacramento….
Californians Warned Against Super Bowl Parties
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and local authorities are urging Californians to avoid Super Bowl parties this Sunday. Those who plan on watching the game are asked to do so with members of their own household. Mixing multiple households while watching television inside, eating snacks and talking all increase the risk of Covid-19 transmission, serious illness and more deaths. Health departments recommend playing it safe and connecting virtually with friends and family who live outside your household.
State Auditor Finds EDD Paid Billions in Improper Benefit Payments
California’s State Auditor Elaine Howle has released a scathing report showing that the Employment Development Department’s (EDD) approach to fraud prevention led to billions of dollars in improper benefit payments. It states that EDD was slow to respond to repeated warnings about fraud in unemployment insurance.
Examples of missteps including taking six months and 7.4 million claims into the pandemic surge before EDD first took action on addresses with unusually high numbers of claims. EDD’s missteps led it to pay $10.4 billion to potentially fraudulent claims. A critical part of EDD’s fraud prevention efforts is validating claimant identities, but it could not verify identities associated with 2.2 million claims and it paid $10.4 billion to about 600,000 if these claims.
While EDD directed Bank of America to freeze 344,000 benefit accounts, it failed by not having a plan to unfreeze accounts belonging to legitimate claimants, not having a comprehensive method of tracking frozen accounts, and being slow to provide clear information to lawmakers and the public about its role in freezing these accounts. Additionally, the auditor’s report states that EDD did not cross-match data on incarcerated individuals, and estimates it paid $810 million to claims associated with those individuals.
Governor and White House Partner in Pilot Program to Open Community Vaccination Sites
On Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom and the Biden-Harris Administration announced a pilot project to establish community vaccination sites in Oakland and Los Angeles. These pilot sites, which will be based at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum and California State University, Los Angeles, are part of the wider effort to establish 100 vaccination sites nationwide in the federal administration’s first 100 days. The sites will be co-run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the State of California through the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES).
The two locations chosen for these efforts are in some of the most diverse and socioeconomically challenged communities in the country. They are also communities that have been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19 and are home to essential workers who have borne the brunt of keeping the economy open over the past year. Each of these new sites will be paired with two mobile vaccination clinics which can be deployed to multiple locations to amplify and provide distribution to areas that otherwise lack sufficient support.
Preparations and buildout of these two locations are now underway and the sites are expected to be open to eligible members of the public beginning February 16. Registration for vaccine appointments at these two sites will be available through the state’s MyTurn scheduling system in the coming days.
Today, CDPH reports that California has 3,308,468 confirmed cases of Covid-19 to date, which includes 14,021 newly recorded cases on Thursday. The seven-day positivity rate is down at 5.8% and the 14-day rate is also lower than last week at 6.6%. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 43,024 Californians have died due to Covid-19. As of today, 4,199,626 vaccine doses have been administered statewide. (See last week’s stats here.)
As of Tuesday, 54 California counties are in the purple tier, one county (Mariposa) is in the red tier, three counties (Alpine, Sierra and Trinity) are in the orange tier, and no counties are in the yellow tier.
Remember to sign up at myturn.ca.gov for a notification when you’re eligible for a vaccine.