Capitol Update – 01/24/2022
California approaches pandemic record for all hospitalizations
In a stunning sign of the heavy burden facing California’s healthcare system, the total number of people hospitalized statewide is approaching the peak of last winter’s COVID-19 surge, even as there are indications that the rise in coronavirus-positive patients may be starting to ebb. Rong-Gong Lin II, Luke Money, Emily Alpert Reyes in the Los Angeles Times
Growing signs Omicron is leveling off in California
The shift is uneven across the state, but the numbers suggest California could be reaching a crest in the latest surge. States on the East Coast that were hit earlier by the Omicron wave have already started to see a sustained decline in infections. Rong-Gong Lin II, Luke Money in the Los Angeles Times
Peak Omicron: Bit by bit, California’s coronavirus situation is starting to look less dire
Our test positivity rate remains in the double digits thanks to the omnipresent Omicron variant — but the situation is gradually improving. After peaking at 23.1 percent last Wednesday, the rate has declined each day thereafter to dip to 20.9 percent on Wednesday. While hospitalization numbers are continuing to climb daily, testing intensive care units from the Bay to L.A., the rate of increase is diminishing. Some caveats: Testing is an imperfect metric. Anyone who’s tried to get a coronavirus test lately can affirm that not every case is finding its way into state data. The reported positivity rate is still massive and a more than sevenfold increase from its single-digit status a month ago today, before infections began their upward march. The recent decrease may also fail to capture a spike from MLK weekend gatherings. And these improvements notwithstanding, the coronavirus will still loom over the Legislature. Organized labor has unified behind a push to reinstate two weeks of paid Covid sick leave, which Gov. Gavin Newsom has also embraced. Newsom led his budget reveal by seeking $1.4 billion in emergency budget aid to help California’s health care system weather this surge, part of a $2.7 billion plan that also seeks to expand inoculations.
Vaccines in California
A group of eight lawmakers on Wednesday announced they’re forming a Vaccine Work Group to investigate whether and how the state can enhance vaccine requirements. One avenue: Tightening vaccine requirements for workplaces after theSupreme Court shot down the Biden administration’s vaccine or test mandate for large employers. “That’s something we should definitely be looking at,” said Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento. More to come on this.
The Unemployment Picture
Unemployment claims hit a three-month high last week amid the Omicron surge, AP’s Paul Wiseman writes . “Jobless claims rose for the third straight week — by 55,000 to 286,000, highest since mid-October, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The jump in claims marked the biggest one-week increase since mid-July. The four-week average of claims, which smooths out weekly volatility, rose by 20,000 to 231,000, highest since late November.”
California unemployment claims jump, layoffs persist
California workers filed a big increase in initial claims for unemployment last week, an unsettling report that suggests coronavirus-linked woes continue to afflict the ailing statewide economy. George Avalos in the San Jose Mercury
Labor Department numbers released today also painted a brutal picture of Omicron’s effect on labor shortages.
“Between Dec. 29 and Jan. 10, approximately 8.8 million workers reported not working because they were sick with the coronavirus or caring for someone who was, according to data from the Census Bureau,” per WaPo’s Eli Rosenberg. “Those numbers are nearly triple the levels from the first two weeks of December, before cases had started to peak around the country. They were also the highest numbers since the agency started taking the survey in April 2020 — well over last January’s peak of 6.6 million workers out.”
Architecture Billings Index up in Dec.
The American Institute of Architects’ Architecture Billings Index rose one point to 52 in December, rounding out an up-and-down year amid long backlogs and pandemic- and supply-related challenges. Mixed practice registered the strongest reading among project types, while regionally the South had the highest reading. Full Story: Archinect
Report: Construction workers receive $28B a year in public assistance
Thirty-nine percent of families of construction workers in the U.S. are enrolled in at least one public safety net program such as Medicaid, according to a new report by the UC Berkeley Labor Center released this month. By comparison, 31% of workers across all industries have a family member enrolled in public assistance, Berkeley found. This adds up to $28 billion of public assistance for construction workers, which is roughly 10% of the amount spent for all working families. Construction, generally seen as a reliable path to a stable, well-paying job, has become less reliable as a career, according to the study’s authors, who attributed part of the dependence on public programs to a decrease in unionization among construction workers.
AGC: 2021 saw 20% surge in materials prices
Despite some easing in December, the cost of construction materials ended 2021 with a nearly 20% gain, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America. Among the biggest gains were a 127.2% price surge for steel mill products and a 54.9% gain for diesel fuel.
Full Story: Construction Dive
As US average gas cost rises, will California catch a break? Check your county on our map
The current average price for regular gasoline in California is $4.64, which is about 2 cents less than last month but roughly $1.30 more than a year ago. Meanwhile, national gas prices are rising with hope that the omicron variant of the coronavirus will ebb and economies will kick back into gear.
This pattern follows in several California areas: Sacramento, Modesto, Fresno, Bakersfield, Chico, Fresno, Santa Cruz, Stockton, Ventura and Visalia. As of Wednesday, the average price for a gallon a regular gasoline in Sacramento was $4.62, which is roughly 4 cents less than a month ago but about $1.29 more than a year ago. https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/transportation/article257488769.html?ac_cid=DM595462&ac_bid=-1313675250
Oakland A’s stadium proposal advances
Despite negative public comments, planning officials in Oakland, Calif., have approved an environmental impact report on a proposed stadium for MLB’s Oakland Athletics. The 35,000-seat waterfront ballpark would form part of a planned mixed-use development at the Port of Oakland’s Howard Terminal. Full Story: San Jose Mercury News (Calif.) (tiered subscription model)
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