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Mental Health Crisis in California: Experts Cite COVID-19

Mental Health Crisis in California: Experts Cite COVID-19

Mental health experts have issued a warning about the volatile nature of the pandemic. Reopening and closing counties is causing a spike in severe cases of anxiety and depression. But some disease experts argue that this method provides the most flexibility.

Over the past week, Governor Gavin Newsom has rolled back the reopening plan. On Monday, Santa Clara County hoped to open limited public spaces. Citizens looked forward to getting a haircut or visiting the gym. But Newsom announced that counties on the watch list would have to resort back to an earlier phase of reopening. This means closing restaurants, hair salons, and gyms. Five out of the eight Bay Area counties appear on California’s watch list.

Mental Health Meltdowns

The pandemic has affected overall mental health across the country. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll recently found that the pandemic has affected at least 56% of adults’ mental health. Bay Area hospitals agree that the fallout of this pandemic is not just physical. Dr. Chris Colwell is the Chief of Emergency Medicine at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. He noted, “We’re seeing between eight to 10 (patients) a day that are expressing suicidal ideations.”

He acknowledged that patients handle this stress in different ways. “The two patterns are suicidal or on the path to get there and then the other group: those who are responding with anger.”

Andrea Zorbes practices psychology in the area. She also claims her patients express an uptick in anxiety and depression. She believes the state of the world is having neurological effects. “It sends a fight or flight response. It sends cortisol to the brain and sometimes we don’t breathe deeply and sort of go into panic mode.”

With the closing and reopening, she said there is: “Back and forth of a lot of mixed emotions. We are happy for a little bit and then we hear the next day another stay-at-home order and we are hit with a wave of fear again.”

Infectious disease expert Dr. Chin-Hong feels that this is the best strategy, though. He argues, “I think it’s done for specific reasons. Which is that it keeps you vigilant. It is more tiring but it gives people the most flexibility.”

All experts suggest focusing on the present and working through feelings a day at a time. Spending too much time concentrating on forces out of your control can just make symptoms worse.

Christopher Columbus Statue Removed From Coit Tower

Christopher Columbus Statue Removed From Coit Tower

San Francisco – A monument of Christopher Columbus is under removal from Coit Tower. The removal is underway by the city council as a means to renew the image of a peaceful community.

“At a time of great unrest and deep reflection by our country, we recognize the pain and oppression that Christopher Columbus represents to many,” says Supervisor Aaron Peskin . “We believe that through public art we can and should honor the heritage of all of our people, including our Italian-American community, but in doing so we should choose symbols that unify us. The Arts and Recreation and Park Commissions will engage in a public process to determine what art work should go in that space near Coit Tower.”

Christopher Columbus History

Christopher Columbus ha been the subject of scrutiny over the ethics of establishing America. In his quest to expand into “The New World” he declared acts that specifically targeted other races.

Christopher Columbus is known for setting sail to cross the Atlantic and find a new route from India. While many history books name gives him credit, they seem to take away from the negative impact he had during his expeditions.

Throughout his conquest of America – he had enacted in acts of violence as well as enslavement for the native populace. The imagery of America’s history is elusive of criminal moments. The country is starting to make a shift away to create a more peaceful environment for minorities.

Not only Christopher Columbus but also Confederacy Statues are facing removal. This comes directly from the past as the civil war was the acting result of slavery. For the confederates, they wanted to keep slaves and remove themselves from the country. Some say that the statues should find a new home in a historical museum.

As for where these statues will be placed, we are uncertain. Thus, the removal gives way to promote a more peaceful approach to the history of America.

Elon Musk Restarts Operations

Elon Musk Restarts Operations

Elon Musk has had quite a crazy couple of weeks. For starters, he just gave birth to a child with Grimes. Now I, for one, welcome our new alien overlord, but that isn’t the only thing going on with Musk currently.

Elon Musk Has Threatened to Move Tesla Facility

Since his new child was born, Elon Musk has been making moves in order to reopen the Tesla facility. Unfortunately, this has been met with backlash from Fremont county.

Throughout the past week, Musk has been on fire through his Twitter account. Demanding the county to allow Tesla to reopen the facility and continue to produce cars and keep its workers on the payroll.

On Monday, photos shown the plant in full swing. Its employee parking lot full. The response from the area is that they must meet the appropriate safety procedures in order to continue operations. Musks response was simple: They can just move to New Mexico or Texas.

Tesla Opts To Sue For Reopening

While the COVID-19 lock down has been in effect, Musk has been fighting to stay open. Currently, his company has been under the knife with many other auto manufacturers being able to continue operations.

Where other companies have a workers union to back them up, Tesla does not have that. The company is self-owned and operated. This hasn’t stopped them from taking direct action against the districts government.

Government Response = Elon Musk Does Not Comply

County officials have warned that if the company proceeds to function without the proper safety precautions, then Musk has the potential to face a $1,000 dollar fine per day or upwards of 90 days in jail.

This has not stopped the futurist from continuing operations. The state gave Tesla till Monday (yesterday) at 5pm to come up with a list of safe regulations that would allow them to continue to operate. Unfortunately, Tesla has not complied with the initial response.

Slow Streets Initiative Prioritizes Foot Traffic

Slow Streets Initiative Prioritizes Foot Traffic

With social distancing protocols mandated by state order, pedestrians seek space when traveling to and from home. With traffic thinned throughout San Francisco, officials found a way to assist those on foot maintain distance. The Slow Streets initiative, modeled after Oakland’s measure, implements street closures to prioritize foot traffic, allowing pedestrians to walk safely in the street.

The idea is to provide more room for those walking between errands. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends keeping a six foot radius around you free of others. However, maintaining that proves difficult on tight sidewalks. Though, with the ability to walk in the street, pedestrians gain excess room in which to maneuver around one another.

“The purpose of Slow Streets is to manage traffic speeds and create a safe network for essential walk and bike travel while transit service levels are reduced,” said a spokesperson for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

Cones and signage mark off the specific streets. However, residents of these blocks are still permitted to drive through them, as well as delivery vehicles, albeit at a reduced speed.

Slow Streets to Expand

While the initial rollout incorporates a select few neighborhoods, the SFMTA plans to expand. Presently, neighborhoods such as Marina, Potrero Hill, and Visitacion Valley, among others, feature no slow streets. An expansion could include additions to these neighborhoods.

However, the first phase excluded input from certain local officials who now criticize the placement of the first slow streets. Supervisor Matt Haney, who represents Tenderloin, took to Twitter to vocalize his disagreement.

Other supervisors voiced similar frustrations. Still, the adoption of street closures received a warm reception. Future choices for Slow Streets will benefit more neighborhoods.

However, one San Francisco neighborhood might reject street closures. The co-chair of Chinatown’s Transportation Research and Improvement Project Queena Chen believes street closures clash with present movement in the neighborhood. “Chinatown has been doing so well with sheltering in place, and so many nonprofits need cars to make sure people are getting food. All these little things need to be done in cars. That’s why we feel streets in Chinatown shouldn’t be closed,” she said.

After feedback from local officials, the next phase of Slow Streets may come with more collaboration.

Shelter In Place Order Extended

Shelter In Place Order Extended

As the case count of coronavirus infections rises across the country, officials in San Francisco opted to extend their shelter in place order. Previously, an order issued March 16 expired on April 7. However, with the evolving threat prompting health officials to revise projections, so too do city officials.

Therefore, the updated shelter in place order extends out to May 3. That deadline also faces additional scrutiny down the line as officials continue to monitor the health crisis. Additionally, the revised shelter in place order adds to it new restrictions for Bay Area residents.

First, public public spaces are closing. Among them, picnic areas, playgrounds, and dog parks become inaccessible. Furthermore, the order restricts funerals to a max of 10 individuals.

Also, restaurants and other businesses considered essential must adapt to the growing threat. As such, city officials require them to establish and implement a strategy to guarantee operations include social distancing. They must do so by April 3.

Construction also comes to a halt, with the sole exception of affordable housing development.

New Shelter In Place Guidelines Still Offer Fresh Air

These new restrictions follow weeks of ill-advised public gatherings. In the wake of the initial announcement, people continued to enjoy public outdoor spaces with little regard for social distancing measures. Images of crowds prompted the more stringent version of the order.

Though, residents may still leave home for walks, in addition to essential trips. The closure of public spaces seeks to eliminate excessive contact among the public. Walks in residential neighborhoods remain a safe way to enjoy the outdoors, so long as walkers practice social distancing.

At present, San Francisco counts more than 400 cases of covid-19, and 7 deaths. The greater Bay Area accounts for 2,550 cases of the state’s total 8,769. The country’s number of diagnosed cases tops 200,000.

Health officials expect the apex to come sometime in April.

Self-Driving Cars Make A SF Comeback

Self-Driving Cars Make A SF Comeback

Photo by Dllu used under CC-BY-SA-4.0 license

After a 2-year hiatus following a fatal crash, Uber’s self-driving cars return to San Francisco streets to continue testing.

Beginning Tuesday, a pair of Volvo XC90s outfitted with Uber’s self-driving system roam around the city’s west side. For now, they remain restricted to the Richmond District, an area with fewer pedestrians.

However, despite their technology, backup drivers monitor the vehicles as they operate in self-drive mode. That requirement carries over from the previous bout of testing. Despite the precaution, one of the cars still managed to strike and kill a pedestrian on March 18 of 2018.

Self-Driving Cars Display Unsafe Behavior

Prior to the fatal crash, a pair of incidents yielded concern and outrage from the public and government officials. In one, taxi dashcam footage caught one of their self-driving cars running a red light in San Francisco. Subsequent probing revealed the traffic light violation was the fault of Uber’s software.

In another, a Volvo SUV with self-driving tech got into a crash, tipping the vehicle onto its side.

San Francisco officials lambasted the company for failing to obtain permits. Uber claimed they weren’t required to.

Then, in March of 2018, one of their self-driving cars failed to recognize a pedestrian crossing a street in Tempe, Arizona. The backup driver watched a television clip on their phone as the car slammed into 48-year-old Elaine Herzberg, killing her.

Uber scaled back operations, firing all 100 operators hired to monitor self-driving cars.

Though, later that same year, they returned to testing in Pittsburg with authorization from Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation.

Now, with an official permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, Uber returns to testing in their home city, albeit considerably more limited. In addition to Pittsburg and San Francisco, Uber presently tests in Dallas and Washington DC.

FBI Agent Shoots Musician Without Cause

FBI Agent Shoots Musician Without Cause

Earlier this month, an off-duty plain-clothes FBI agent fired his weapon on a street musician after attempting to bust him for selling cannabis. Now, the victim, 24-year-old Tad Crane, speaks out against the officer’s action in an interview with the San Francisco Examiner.

The incident took place on February 8. It began when the as of yet unnamed FBI agent approached Crane on the street while he played guitar. Crane and a friend were smoking weed, and his friend portioned some out for another man. As he did so, the FBI agent in street clothes ordered them against the wall.

Crane said the agent failed to present any identification verifying his claim of authority. Crane saw no badge, and only heard the agent call himself “police.” As the agent searched the man who received weed from Crane’s friend, he pulled his phone out to make a call.

When he fumbled his phone, Crane questioned his authority. The agent then pulled his gun. Crane says he stepped towards the agent with his shirt raised, indicating he was unarmed. “I set my guitar down and said ‘dude, take your BB gun to your momma’s house,’” Crane said of his response. “I started putting him in his place really hard for pulling a gun on some kids on Haight Street.”

That’s when the FBI agent stumbled backwards and began firing. He shot Crane twice. After paramedics rushed him to the hospital, Crane remained handcuffed to his bed for several days after the incident, under arrest for possession of psychedelic drugs for sale. However, authorities since released him, likely following scrutiny of the agent’s actions.

“He had plenty of time to think about putting the gun back in his pocket and walking away from the situation,” said Crane.

Now, he calls for criminal charges to be brought against the FBI agent in connection with the shooting.

The FBI says it is investigating the matter, though they have not released any information, including the agent’s name.

Landlord Selling Off Rent-Controlled Units

Landlord Selling Off Rent-Controlled Units

Veritas Investments, the largest landlord in all of San Francisco, plans to sell a third of its portfolio. The 76 units listed at market price are all rent-controlled.

A law enacted last year, championed by Sandra Lee Fewer on the Board of Supervisors, requires all of all property sales a 30-day window for nonprofits to purchase. As a first right of refusal, the law takes aim at the rapidly exploding cost of housing in the city by giving nonprofits a leg up.

Veritas listed their 76 rent-controlled units on the market the moment the 30-day window closed. As a result, city officials and affordable housing advocates derided the corporate landlord.

Supervisor Hillary Ronen recognized the legal adherence to the 30-day rule, however, noted a clever gaming of the system. The landlord timed their announcement to coincide the 30-day window with the holiday season. Therefore, few nonprofits would manage to express interest during a time when most employees take time off.

“When you put 2,000 units up for sale in the middle of December, you are trying to evade city laws and get top dollar and ruin people’s lives,” she said at a rally Monday.

That event, organized by fellow Supervisor Dean Preston, took place outside City Hall. During the rally, Preston called for a 60-day pause on the sale of the rent-controlled units.

However, Veritas shows no interest in such a pause. Instead, they plan to proceed with the sale, likely netting them millions.

Furthermore, the corporate landlord filed legal action against a nonprofit for the dissemination of privileged information. That information? The addresses to the units for sale. The nonprofit in the suit, Housing Rights Committee, posted the addresses on Facebook in an effort to warn the tenants of an impending sale.

Chesa Boudin Sworn In As New DA

Chesa Boudin Sworn In As New DA

After winning his election last November, Chesa Boudin took office as San Francisco’s new District Attorney. Addressing attendees of the ceremony Wednesday, Boudin promised a number of progressive reforms.

His campaign faced intense opposition. More traditional, establishment voices took umbrage with his leftist ideas. Among them, the police union spent considerable funds running ads opposing Boudin’s candidacy.

Furthermore, Mayor London Breed even appointed his opponent, Suzy Loftus, as interim district attorney.

In spite of these obstacles, Boudin managed a win with a platform of progressive policies.

Chesa Boudin Plans to Reform Criminal Justice

Nearly a thousand attended the event held at Herbst Theatre. After being sworn in, Boudin addressed the crowd with an inaugural speech.

In it, he reiterated his commitment to redirecting the aims of his office away from punishment and towards restorative justice. “Join this movement,” he said. “Join us in rejecting the notion: That to be free we must cage others.”

Chesa Boudin’s policies include eliminating cash bail, a practice criticized for holding in jail underprivileged individuals with minor offenses awaiting trial. He also intends to abandon “tough on crime” sentencing enhancements. Additionally, he will stop filing cases resulting from searches conducted during a “stop and frisk”.

“Stop and frisk — whether done while walking down the street or while driving a car — is a civil rights violation,” he said.

Earlier this week, he also unveiled the names of criminal justice experts recruited to serve as advisors.

On the opposition of Mayor Breed, Chesa Boudin called it “water under the bridge”. He expressed a willingness and necessity of working together with both Mayor Breed and law enforcement to conduct the functions of his office.

Likewise, Mayor Breed expressed an appreciation for Boudin’s cooperation. She noted his recognition of the balance between accountability and fairness.

“We can hold people accountable and we can make sure there is fairness in our criminal justice system,” she said. “I am looking forward over the next four years of working with him to do just that.”

1976 Cold Case Jane Doe Identified

1976 Cold Case Jane Doe Identified

San Francisco investigators have identified the remains of a 43-year-old cold case. Utilizing modern DNA analysis, police confirmed the body as 14-year-old Judy Gifford. The development comes as a result of cross-checking unidentified bodies with missing persons reports.

In 1976, Donald McIsaac, then 17, found the body in a shallow grave while digging for turtle eggs. He reported to police that he discovered a human hand rising from the earth. Upon examination, San Francisco police determined the remains as a young woman aged 14 to 20. They also deduced she had been in the shallow grave for up to 6 weeks.

Judy went unidentified largely because, at the time of her disappearance, it was believed she moved to New Jersey where her aunt, Ogee Gifford, lived. Not until years later did her half brother, William Shin, learn from Ogee that Judy never moved. Some decades after that, in 2017, William decided to file the missing persons report.

Cold Case Investigators

When shuffling through cold case files, San Francisco investigators matched the timeline between Shin’s report and Judy’s remains. Additionally, a gold chain found on the body bore a resemblance to a chain viewed in a photo of Judy. To confirm the match, they reached out for DNA samples from both William Shin and Ogee Gifford.

The DNA comparison proved the remains to be that of Judy Gifford.

As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, Ogee Gifford, now 87, received the news from police that the remains were of her niece. She expressed she was glad with the development, but declined further comment.

Judy lived in Park Merced with her father, step-mother, and a pair of half-siblings, William, and a younger sister. She moved in with them in the summer of the year she disappeared.

Her case remains open.

Any information regarding Judy Gifford’s death should be forwarded to the San Francisco PD’s tip line at 415-575-4444, or text TIP411 with “SFPD” at the beginning of the message.

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