• Hourglass Project: Reopening Takes A Detour

    Fits and starts on reopening   
    Much has changed over the last week, and confusion and tension are on the rise as the state has revealed more of its expectations and standards for counties to reopen.

    If you're feeling confused, you're not alone. Below, a look at where things stand and where they are headed.
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    Local plans still viable and valuable
    The landscape has evolved quickly, from local planning efforts getting underway April 15 to Gov. Newsom releasing new criteria that hampered local plans May 7. REACH CEO Melissa James opened this week's Townhall meeting with a rundown of events. Here's how the situation is unfolding on the Central Coast. 
     
    1. Adapting the roadmap. SLO County has adapted its reopening guidelines to align with the state's Resilience Roadmap, and Santa Barbara County is following suit with its plan. As both counties are under the governor's order to reopen according to the state roadmap, these local plans will not be implemented in replacement but will serve as a supplement. 
      
    2. Still relying on local expertise. State guidance has been fluid, with standards and criteria coming down piecemeal. In an effort to be proactive, both counties will continue to use the standards developed by an independent panel of experts, in partnership with industry and community stakeholders to supplement the state roadmap. Those standards will act as best practices to help organizations start planning and preparing now for when they may reopen. The medical criteria developed under the local plans will guide the Public Health Officers responsible for measuring and managing both the spread of the disease and capacity to treat it on a county level.
      
    3. Pushing for a safe and reasonable route. At the same time, both counties are petitioning to move ahead when ready. The biggest sticking point? Newsom's strict new benchmarks on Covid-19 cases per capita. SLO County was the first in the state to submit its case for loosening restrictions, arguing in part that cases at the California Men's Colony prison should not be counted in our local caseload. Santa Barbara County has penned a letter that will be discussed at today's Board of Supervisors meeting. The letter asks for modifications to state criteria, including that the federal prison at Lompoc, where there's been a large outbreak, be excluded from the county's statistics. 
     
    The state is expected to provide more information and guidance today. Tune in to the governor's press briefing at noon today to get the details.
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    Townhall dives into state-local intersections

    Monday's Townhall speakers gave voice to some of the concerns swirling around the who, when and how of reopening plans.  
    Two county supervisors, SLO County's John Peschong and Santa Barbara County's Steve Lavagnino, opined about whether reopening metrics were fair and attainable, especially as testing ramps up.

    John Myers, Sacramento Bureau Chief at the LA Times, observed that lifting the stay-at-home order is shaping up to be much more contentious than ordering it, partly due to slow messaging from Sacramento.

    You can watch the Townhall Meeting HERE.
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    A big hole no matter how you look at it

    Myers also provided some insight into the state budget ahead of Newsom's expected May Revise. The combined drop in tax revenue and increase in Covid 19-related spending is like nothing the state has experienced before, Myers said, and yet cash reserves and cash flow opportunities remain favorable. "The chances of big tax increases and dramatic spending cuts are less than in past recessions," Myers said.

    The Newsom administration is warning of a $54 billion deficit, though the Legislative Analyst's Office is projecting a much lower $18-31 billion deficit in its new spring fiscal outlook.  

    We hope to get a clearer picture Thursday with the release of the revised budget proposal. 
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    Silver linings: A surge of regionalism 

    The fast-paced work to drive an efficient and equitable reopening has been nothing short of awe-inspiring, demonstrating a tremendous level of collaboration and unity among diverse sectors and industries with respect for public health and safety. 

    In parallel processes, SLO and Santa Barbara counties collectively engaged nearly 600 community leaders in approximately 50 roundtable meetings to contribute ideas on how individuals, businesses, churches and other entities could reopen the Central Coast safely and collaboratively.

    "I've talked more to Ventura and San Luis Obispo County in the last few weeks than I have in the last 10 years," Lavagnino said. "We're more connected to our state legislators."

    We're calling it a win for regionalism. Many of the stakeholder groups formed on the fly for this effort are coalescing in ways they never imagined before this — and in ways that could pay dividends they also never before imagined.