Oakland – As we are facing increased cases in Oakland and California of the communicable disease commonly known as the “Coronavirus,” it is important that we act thoughtfully and provide vital resources and information to protect our community.
With increasing event closures, reported cases, and a cruise ship with people who have the disease now coming to the Port of Oakland, it is even more important that we ensure proper steps are taken — not from fear, but from coherent planning.
Enclosed at the bottom of this email is information we were given to share with you, about the cruise ship situation and Coronavirus more generally.
In addition to the information we have been provided for sharing, I also wanted to let you know that I have been in communication with persons from the Governor’s office and reached out to California Office of Emergency Services (OES), as well as other leaders here in the East Bay.
While we have received commitments that the passengers from the ship will NOT be exiting into our community, there are additional concerns that still need to be addressed, and which I have requested from State officials who are running this effort, specifically:
1) There is a significant risk of ongoing spread of communicable diseases in our communities, especially if full sanitation practices are not available to significant portions of our population. For example, public statements from the State and County have encouraged people to wash their hands regularly, but not everyone has regular access to hand-washing facilities. I have requested urgent action to fund the installation of hand-washing stations and sanitation for all in our community, including those who are homeless, to help ensure healthy practices. The State and County (which has the authority and funding for public health) have not yet done so, and so we still need people to urge both the State OES, (https://www.caloes.ca.gov/) and our Alameda County leaders (https://www.acgov.org/board/) to immediately fund these vital public health sanitation needs.
Meanwhile, in Oakland, I have also urged expediting installation of public toilets and hand-washing stations which the Council approved in the budget last June. https://oaklandnewsnow.com/2020/03/02/amid-coronavirus-concerns-oakland-city-council-president-rebecca-kaplan-calls-for-portlandloo/
2) We need the State and Federal officials running the cruise ship evacuation effort to also ensure protections for and from the staff who will be working with the ship passengers. While they have told us that passengers themselves will NOT be allowed to enter public areas of Oakland, I have also asked about what will happen for the personnel who will be working with the passengers, and not received answers. As the passengers are unloaded from the ship, there will be a variety of personnel who will be working with them to assist, process, and transport the passengers. What protections will be provided to ensure that those personnel are not exposed to the disease, and then spread it into the community?
This has been a problem in prior similar efforts, when staff who greeted airplane passengers with Coronavirus exposure were not themselves protected when entering Travis Air Force Base, and who then went back into the surrounding communities.
3) Will further Cruise Ships be allowed to depart from docks which are not committing to receive them back if there is a problem? San Francisco set up and profits from a cruise ship dock, yet refused to accept the scheduled ship arrival when challenges arose. Now that this problem has been identified, will the State issue orders to prevent it from happening again? NO cruise ship dock SHOULD BE ALLOWED AGAIN to board and launch a cruise ship, or contract for one to come to it, if they are not committing to receive if people get sick.
4) Ensuring ability of workers to take sick days. In addition, I am asking for action, both locally and beyond, to ensure that workers are able to take sick days as needed, and aren’t pressured financially or managerially, to come to work while sick. This includes waiving requirement to provide a doctor’s note to take sick leave, since public health experts are encouraging people NOT to go to the hospital unnecessarily, it is important not to make workers go to the hospital just to get a doctor’s note. It also means working with employers to help ensure the rights of workers to take sick days, so people aren’t pressured to come to work sick and spread disease.
5) General reminders: wash your hands regularly, avoid shaking hands, consider avoiding flying (and cruise ships).
In addition, the school I attended as an undergraduate, MIT, has provided their own document of guidance to reduce spread of the virus, including cancelling large events. I thought you might find this helpful, here is the link for the MIT document:
This is a Federal/State operation. The City Council was not consulted in the making of this decision, and did not authorize it. In terms of my values of respecting all people and wishing everyone well — I don’t want those who are stranded on the cruise ship to remain stuck. And I also expect and insist that the State treat the unmet needs of Oakland residents with no less urgency. When San Francisco refused to accept the ship, they had contracted for and planned for back to their cruise ship dock, the State stepped in to find another strategy. Right now, we have thousands of people in Oakland (and elsewhere) who are in need of help — who are being told by public health officials and leaders from both the State and County that they should wash their hands regularly and should “stay home” if they are sick, yet who have no place to wash their hands and no home to stay in if they are sick.
As it is important for the State to solve the San Francisco-bound ship problem — out of human compassion for the people stuck on board — then it must also be urgent for the State (which is using Oakland to solve their problem) to also act to solve the problem of those who are struggling here too. They must provide basic steps to prevent the spread of communicable disease throughout our community, like hand-washing availability by installing public hand-washing stations.
I am calling for:
– The State to immediately fund, in Oakland (and other areas hard hit by homelessness), public hand-washing stations and bathrooms.
– Work together to immediately acquire and open facilities for homeless seniors, and homeless in need of medical attention, and facilities to provide safe (prepared) meals for those in need, both for housing and for support services.
Let us take this opportunity to remember than we are all in this together — an injury to one is an injury to all.
And so, when our society denies healthcare to anyone, it puts everyone at risk. We should take actions to help protect ourselves individually, while also working for a healthy society that protects everyone.
SHARING PUBLIC STATEMENT FROM STATE OFFICIALS
As soon as tomorrow (Monday), the ship will begin disembarking passengers at the Port of Oakland. The ship will only be docked during the duration of the disembarkment. This mission is a joint federal and state effort.
These passengers will NOT be released into the general public. Passengers who may require acute medical treatment and hospitalization will be transported to health care facilities in the Bay Area and beyond (that are prepared to receive such patients). If passengers do not require acute medical care following health screenings, those who are California residents will go to a federally run isolation facility within Northern California for testing and isolation, while NON-Californians will be transported by the federal government to facilities in other states (Aircraft transport will occur by chartered planes). The ship’s crew will be quarantined and treated aboard the ship; but importantly, the ship will only stay in Port of Oakland for the duration of disembarkment.
This ship will depart Oakland as soon as possible and will remain elsewhere for the duration of the crew’s quarantine.
“The Port will provide assistance as necessary for the safe disembarkation of the passengers,” said Danny Wan, Director of the Port of Oakland. “There has been close coordination to assure that port operations, port workers and the community are not impacted.”
“The health of our Bay Area community is our top concern, and we’ve been working across federal and state agencies to protect it,” said Colleen Chawla, Alameda County Public Health Officer.
“With a thousand California residents on the ship, it only makes sense that we all work together to help those in this crisis and ensure that they are quarantined, tested and make their way home when it is safe to do so,” said Senator Nancy Skinner.
PUBLIC INFORMATION — Vulnerable Populations: Limit Outings
•Vulnerable populations include people who are:
– 60years old and older.
– People with certain health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, kidney disease and weakened immune systems.
•For vulnerable populations, don’t go to gatherings (of about 50 people or more) unless it essential. If you can telecommute, you should. Avoid people who are sick.
2)Workplace and Businesses:
•Suspend nonessential employee travel.
•Minimize the number of employees working within arm’s length of one another, including minimizing or canceling large in-person meetings and conferences.
•Urge employees to stay home when they are sick and maximize flexibility in sick leave benefits.
•Do not require a doctor’s note for employees who are sick.
•Consider use of telecommuting options.
•Some people need to be at work to provide essential services of great benefit to the community. They can take steps in their workplace to minimize risk.
– Having hand washing capabilities, hand sanitizers and tissues available
– frequently cleaning high touch surface areas like counter tops and hand rails.
– Finding ways to create physical space to minimize close contact as much as possible.