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In Sonoma County they’re still seeing frequent coronavirus related deaths even though case numbers are going down. The Press Democrat reports health officials said Tuesday 9 people died and more than 25% of the total deaths occurred in January. Health officials say this month has been the deadliest for the virus after the holiday surge in cases. The latest deaths were between Jan. 4 and Jan. 25th and were in five women and four men who were in local hospitals. Six of them were over 64 years old and three between the ages of 50 and 64. Five of the nine had been residents of skilled nursing or residential care facilities. The county is still expecting the deaths to continue next month. So far the county has had just under 26,000 cases of COVID.

A California inmate firefighter who was injured, then placed in federal immigration detention, has been released. 39 year old Bounchan Keola got hit by a tree while fighting a fire last October outside of Redding. He saw his parents and sister yesterday for the first time since he was arrested as a teen. He was released from prison a couple weeks after his injury, but scooped up by customs agents. He was released from detention Wednesday because of a court case that said detainees are not allowed to be held indefinitely if they can’t be deported and if they’re not dangerous or a flight risk. Keola is also a legal resident because his parents left Laos when he was 2. Federal law says he could be deported though because he had criminal convictions, murder, manslaughter and assault with a firearm related to a gang-related shooting when he was 16.

If you haven’t signed up for health insurance this year, you’re in luck, as Covered California is extending enrollment. Open enrollment ends this Sunday, but there will be a special enrollment beginning Monday and lasting thru May 15 as part of the Affordable Care Act… or Obamacare. The act started the health insurance marketplaces along with federal subsidies for some who can’t afford health insurance. Calif. runs its own marketplace, while the federal government runs many other state marketplaces. Covered California reports there are as many as 2.7 million Californians without health insurance, and 1.2 million are either eligible for subsidies or qualify for Medicaid.

A new report says the state unemployment dept. knew about possible scams but didn’t do anything to stop it. The Calif. State Auditor’s office says the agency did nothing for four months which cost taxpayers nearly 10 and half billion dollars. Auditor Elaine Howle’s investigation found there had been as many as 1,000 curious claims/day over the first few months of the pandemic, but the department only had a couple of people who were reviewing the reports and stopping the payments, so many slipped through the cracks, until last July. But there were still bogus payments being made. The agency was found to be sending claims repeatedly to the same addresses and did nothing. Some of the fraudulent claims were being sent just last month. Governor Newsom and agency officials have blamed the fraud on the federal government, but the governor’s office also says it’s unacceptable and they’ve set up a fraud task force at Office of Emergency Services who are working with local and federal law enforcement.

Calif. State Parks are starting to allow camping since the stay at home order has been lifted across the state. But it’s only for folks who had reservations already. The department is phasing in camping at state sites and will be posting each opening on the state’s social media sites, their website and individual camps websites too. They are also starting to take reservations again for those who were canceled on, but note that demand is sometimes higher than what’s available. They remind, we are still in the midst of the pandemic and visitors should stay local and plan ahead, to wear a face covering, practice physical distancing and avoid gatherings with people outside your immediate household.

Police say a porch pirate has hit Ukiah. Last Sunday a resident on the city’s west side reported there had been a package on their porch for less than an hour. They have one of those Ring surveillance cameras and it caught someone swiping the package on Clara Avenue between Myron and Joseph Street. The camera caught whoever took the package, something the resident joked was sage and melatonin. The person in the video is described as possible being a teenage male between 15-18, wearing a gray hat, gray/black jacket, blue denim jeans, and a black backpack.

Unemployment claims are down for the first time in nearly a year. The first time claims since the pandemic started last March were way under 100,000, to 53,300. The week before was more than 2 times that much. This latest week the lowest since March 7th the final week before the statewide shutdown due to the pandemic. Across the country though there were 847,000 initial unemployment claims filed last week. It too was down. The last filing was 914,000 first time claims.

The former mayor of Ukiah has been chosen to finish the term of a board supervisor who had been on the council before the last election. Last night the City Council voted for Mari Rodin to take now Mendocino supervisor Maureen Mulheren’s seat. Rodin had been on the council from 2002 to 2013 and she’s been the mayor twice.  The current Mayor Juan Orozco seconded a motion by Vice Mayor Jim Brown to appoint Rodin, there was one dissenting vote. Rodin also actually ran against Mulheren to get onto the board but was diagnosed with cancer and canceled a town hall. She kept going in the race anyway, but only won 35% of the vote. There were eight applications for the seat.

It doesn’t appear that schools will reopen as soon as the Governor had been hoping. Education Source reports it’s increasingly unlikely there will be a February or March reopening. After a couple of hearings on the matter, lawmakers heard complaints a Feb. 1st deadline was unrealistic and should be pushed back. That’s this Monday. The Senate Education Committee heard from various school administration officials last week at the hearing. And the news site reports it doesn’t look like the legislature will approve of the $2 billion the state wants to give to school districts to meet Gov. Newsom’s timeline and conditions.  

The California Legislature has given the thumbs up for the first Black secretary of state. The secretary of state Alex Padilla was chosen by the Governor to take Vice President Kamala Harris’ senate seat. The Senate Pro Tem says Assemblywoman Shirley Weber “is the right person” to fill the position after Weber won the nomination from the senate. A 29-0 vote. Republicans did not vote. The Assembly had approved her nomination a day earlier. The Governor appointed Weber at the same time the senate also approved extending the universal vote-by-mail system for one more year.

The storm that powered through Northern California could be a way out of a drought, but also left some damage behind. The atmospheric river caused tons of car accidents, closed down the 101 in Mendocino County because of stranded vehicles and downed trees and is now in Southern Calif. where it threatens floods and mudslides near areas left bare from wildfires. The National Weather Service has issued flood advisories for all of Los Angeles County, where about 10 million residents reside, and flash flood watches for wildfire-scarred areas in Orange and San Diego counties. The state was in a drought for months which didn’t help stop wildfires last summer which burned over 4.2 million acres, the most in recorded modern history.  

Several hundred million dollars from the federal government’s CARES act will indeed go to help some Californians pay off some back owed rent. The legislature has approved a plan for the state to use the stimulus money to pay up to 80% of some tenants’ unpaid rent but their landlord have to agree to write off the rest of the debt. Gov. Newsom helped negotiate the deal which he’s expected to sign into law. So $2.6 billion of the federal package will go to urgent assistance for renters.

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