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California virus cases are soaring. How 1 mayor is responding to the increase

California was one of the earliest states to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic -- but now it’s struggling. More than 6,700 people are hospitalized statewide, and Tuesday saw over 140 deaths. As officials scramble to implement new restrictions, residents are growing more concerned about the situation. Californians share their fears, and Yamiche Alcindor talks to Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    California may have been among the earliest states to respond to the COVID pandemic, but it is now struggling mightily.

    State officials announced that, yesterday, more than 140 died. More than 6,700 are hospitalized. And the number of infections set a new single-day record yesterday.

    The governor has responded with a new series of shutdowns and restrictions to try to battle the outbreaks. And two of California's largest school districts will begin the year with remote learning.

    We're going to focus on the Golden State tonight, beginning with the stories of people who live there and are dealing with the risks, anxiety and impact of what's happening now.

  • Rhonda Evans:

    My name is Rhonda Evans. I have a 10-year-old daughter, Nina. We live in Oakland, California. And she goes to Redwood Day school.

  • Kwini Reed:

    I'm Kwini Reed, and this is my husband, Michael Reed. And we are the owners of Poppy & Rose in downtown Los Angeles.

  • John Lee Evans:

    I'm John Lee Evans. I'm president of the San Diego Unified School Board in San Diego, California.

    And we just recently announced that we are going to begin the school year completely online on August 31.

  • John Secretan:

    My name's John Secretan. And I own Zinc Cafe & Market. We have got three locations, one in Laguna Beach, one in Corona Del Mar, Newport Beach, and the Arts District in downtown Los Angeles.

  • Maryanne Wendt:

    My name is Maryanne Wendt. I'm from Irvine, California. I have two daughters. One is 18. She just graduated from high school. And the other one is 12. And she will be entering the seventh grade.

  • Brenna Gustafson:

    My name is Brenna Gustafson. I live in Oakland California, and I am a public school teacher.

  • Rhonda Evans:

    There's a lot of uncertainty right now. And we have been trying to follow this really closely over the past few weeks, because school is approaching. It's only a month away, and that we're just getting a ton of conflicting information, and there's a lot of uncertainty.

  • John Lee Evans:

    In June, we had made a decision that we really wanted to go for five days of school full in time in school. And at that time, California was opening bars, haircut places. All kinds of things were opening up. And we were very, very optimistic at that point.

    Since then, the virus has gone way up.

  • Michael Reed:

    When they reopened, we did even — we read the 16-page manual that the Los Angeles County Health Department put out. And you're just like, this is stupid.

  • Kwini Reed:

    It's impossible.

  • Michael Reed:

    It's not impossible. It's just — it didn't even make — even if I put all those protocols into place, I wouldn't feel safe.

    So, why would I force my employee to go deal with the customer, as they're eating and touching and drinking and talking, and then think that you're not going to unnecessarily potentially get someone sick?

  • John Secretan:

    We're sort of anticipating that, and looking like we are probably going to have to pull the tables back in, lock them up, and go back to just a window handing bags of food out.

    It's very, very emotional on the staff, who's trying to earn enough money, trying to keep their schedule going, if they have kids at home.

  • Kwini Reed:

    It's frightening, actually, because it's — we can't plan anything. You can't plan anything.

  • Maryanne Wendt:

    I think a hybrid model, which would include going to school two days a week with social distancing guidelines in place, facing the kids apart, and having masks required, I would feel somewhat at ease.

    I think masks protect our children and protect others. And I'm worried for our teachers, too. We need to keep them safe.

  • Brenna Gustafson:

    We just found out last week that the Oakland Unified School District is going to start the year with distance learning, but that we're going to reassess every four weeks.

    So, after the first four weeks, there is the possibility of maybe changing that. That's pretty much all we have been told.

  • Rhonda Evans:

    A decision that we have made just in the last couple of weeks, actually, is that we won't send her to school, regardless of what happens.

    So, the expectation is that there'll be some remote learning option, and we would take advantage of that. But part of the challenge for in particular is that my husband has both lung and heart disease. So we're a family that's a very vulnerable family.

  • John Lee Evans:

    Opening schools is one of the most important things for our society, but it's also one of the most complex.

    And we make no bones about the fact that distance learning is inferior to in-class learning. And so we do not do this lightly. We know there are a lot of disadvantages, and we're going to have to work with that.

  • Michael Reed:

    We see, like, Canada and the U.K. and a lot of other countries actually decrease the infection rate and be able to do things properly. So, it's just frustrating to see America do everything opposite.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    As you heard, there's still a lot of uncertainty about the pandemic in California.

    And local leaders are still figuring out the best path forward. In Oakland, everything from restaurants to the new school year are now being reevaluated.

    Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf joins me now to talk more about that.

    Mayor Schaaf, welcome to the "NewsHour." Thank you for making the time.

    And let's just begin with where California was several weeks ago. It was the first in the nation to shut down. It was held up as a success story.

    It's now one of the country's epicenters. So, when you look at your community in Oakland, what happened? What went wrong?

  • Libby Schaaf:

    Well, I will start with what went well.

    And that's, we were the first to shut everything down, and we have been one of the most conservative counties in the whole country about reopening.

    But what we have struggled with, and I think the entire nation is struggling with, how hard it is to get everyone to comply with the health orders, to avoid family gatherings, to not go to church, to keep that face covering on, and to avoid going out, and, when you do, to keep that social distance.

    We're seeing a lot of trouble with people complying with those orders, and people that are having to work outside the home really afraid to get tested, to stay home if they are sick, a lot of fear and uncertainty right now.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Let me ask you about some of these people, because there's been a huge push, even among leaders in California, to try to get people to act responsibly and mask up.

    Governor Newsom put out a video feature ago number of former governors as well telling people, this is what you need to do to stay safe.

    At the same time, there's evidence that the surgery you're seeing isn't driven by necessarily people acting irresponsibly. It's driven by those essential workers you just noted, a lot of them from the Latinx community who can't afford to isolate when they get sick.

    Do you think you have done enough to support those members of your community?

  • Libby Schaaf:

    We have to do more.

    And the disparities that we're seeing by geography, by race are horrific. And it shows that we don't have the right support systems in place.

    The fact that workers don't know that they can get financial support, food, distancing for their families, free testing, that is on us. We have to improve these systems, because we knew going into this that those particular populations were already so vulnerable.

    That's why I joined with other mayors recently to advance guaranteed income. That is one of the policy changes that really could have helped people know that they would have income coming in, even if they weren't at work.

    We have also got to continue those extraordinary unemployment benefits. Those are making a difference. And then, of course, we have got to bring testing to those communities, and in ways that they trust, not always requiring an online appointment, allowing walk-ups. Those are some of the things that we're doing in Oakland. They are doing — making a difference, but we have got to do more.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    We should mention, in some of the voices we heard from earlier, there's a lot of concern around the schools reopening.

    And Oakland Unified School District just announced that schools will start on August 10 with all remote learning, and then take at least a month or so to get schools safely up to speed, so students can return in person.

    Given where things are now, if the situation doesn't change, if infections don't slow, do you see students physically going back to school this fall in Oakland?

  • Libby Schaaf:

    I don't.

    And I think that our leaders of the school district were wise to heed the concerns of teachers and parents that it is not yet safe. But what we have been doing is to make sure that our students keep learning. At the end of last school year, we had 25,000 households — that's nearly half of the school population — that were not adequately equipped to engage in distance learning.

    And I want to thank the very generous community here in Oakland, when we launched our Oakland Undivided campaign. In just six days, we raised $13 million, including a $10 million personal contribution from Jack Dorsey, to ensure that every family would have the device, the Internet connection, and the technical support to actually engage in distance learning.

    So, we are working around the clock to make sure that what is a health-driven decision does not put our kids behind in their education.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Mayor Schaaf, we have heard some — from other leaders, including Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti, that he thinks it could still mean a complete shutdown in his city if the infections don't slow.

    Do you see that happening in Oakland?

  • Libby Schaaf:

    I do.

    And I know that this is difficult. People count on government for predictability and stability. But there is nothing predictable about this virus. While we still don't have a cure or treatment, we have to continue to understand that we have to put people before profits, we have to put health first, and take direction from our scientists and our health professionals, not our politicians.

    This is a very difficult time for everyone. I know people are very tired and frustrated, but the virus is not. So, we have to continue to be open to these directives that feel without warning, that are hard to comply with, but absolutely must be done to save lives and prevent suffering.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That is Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf joining us tonight.

    Mayor Schaaf, thank you so much for your time. We hope you and everyone in your community stay safe.

  • Libby Schaaf:

    Thank you.

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