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Coronavirus in California: Gov. Gavin Newsom's Budget Proposal

2020-05-16 06:07:53

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On Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled his revised budget proposal, which now calls for cutting billions of dollars in education funding, money for health care and other services. He said he would start negotiating with unions to cut state workers’ pay by 10 percent and shave off other expenses like cellphones and travel.

This comes as details about the state’s dire financial situation emerge and unemployment is expected to peak at more than 24 percent.

Still, Mr. Newsom said that at least some of the cuts could be reversed with federal aid.

“Everything is negotiable,” he said.

Like many people, what Rosalyn Azarraga most looks forward to when we can gather again is celebrating birthdays, graduations and anniversaries with her big family at big parties.

But for Ms. Azarraga, who is lead nurse at Keck Medical Center in Los Angeles, the reunions may be even sweeter, since so many of the people she loves are working on the front lines of the pandemic.

She’ll finally be able to see her sister, who works at a hospital in New York, and her brother-in-law, a retired nurse who was asked to return to work. She’ll be able to embrace her mother, whose career as a nurse inspired her own decision to care for the sick.

Ms. Azarraga’s husband is a surgical tech at a hospital in Glendale and she can’t wait for the moment they’ll be able to enter their own home without worrying that sickness has followed.

“We just pray,” she said. “We need one day at a time.”

Ms. Azarraga is part of what has historically been an unsung force in American health care: Filipino nurses. (And, more recently, Filipino doctors, home health aides, physical therapists, phlebotomists and more.)

In California alone, a 2016 survey found that almost a fifth of California’s registered nurses were Filipino. The health news outlet Stat reported that they are more likely to work in acute care and intensive care, so they are also more likely to come in contact with Covid-19 patients.

And although it’s tough to say precisely how many health care workers of Filipino descent have become sick, ProPublica found that at least 30 have died in the New York-New Jersey region since the end of March. That doesn’t include extended family members.

Catherine Ceniza Choy, a professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley, who wrote a book about the history of Filipino nurses, explained this isn’t a coincidence.

“It’s connected to an over century-long history that begins with U.S. colonialism,” she told me.

(Read about Larry Itliong and Filipinos’ role in the farmworker movement.)

When the United States colonized the Philippines starting in 1898, it put in place an educational system that taught English and trained nurses, essentially, to work in America, Ms. Choy said.

World War II caused critical nursing shortages. And so, throughout the second half of the 20th century, she said, “you started to see this shift in American nursing.” More foreign-trained nurses started to arrive — the vast majority of whom came from the Philippines.

“And they have continued to come, especially when there are crises,” Ms. Choy said.

In underserved urban and rural hospitals, Filipino workers stepped in. During the AIDS epidemic, Filipino nurses were, as they are today, on the front lines.

She told me a colleague had been scheduled to celebrate her mother’s 100th birthday in the Philippines, but had to cancel.

“She was not worried about the plans themselves,” Dr. Casao said. “She was just worried she will never have the opportunity to celebrate such a remarkable milestone with her mother.”

“In every Filipino household there’s somebody who works in health care,” he told me.

Kultivate put together the #FilipinosFeedTheFrontlines campaign, which as of Thursday, had raised almost $70,000 to help feed essential workers and seniors.

The food has come from a coalition of Filipino restaurants, which themselves have faced steep declines in business.

“In the Philippines, in areas that are hit by typhoons and hurricanes, you can’t depend on your government to help you,” he said. “So you see it generation after generation — stories of how Filipinos band together to help one another.”

They’ve completed their classes, finished their finals. But college students in the class of 2020 have been grappling with the reality that commencement ceremonies have been canceled.

Many have found ways to adapt, however, and that now includes students graduating from the University of California, Berkeley.

The idea at first was to build Memorial Stadium on Minecraft and host a commencement for students as their avatars.

Eventually, the idea expanded to build the whole campus.

More than 100 “builders” used virtual blocks to render a scaled version of every publicly listed structure on U.C. Berkeley’s campus, along with, Mr. Pickett noted with pride, “about 95 percent of the vegetation.”

They called it “Blockeley University.”

On Saturday, Mr. Pickett said, graduates can arrive “on campus” and take pictures. Then they can head to the “stadium,” where they can hear commencement speakers including Carol Christ, U.C. Berkeley’s chancellor. The ceremony will also be livestreamed for those who just want to watch.

That will be followed by an online music festival.

Mr. Pickett said that he missed his friends and that “it definitely kind of sucks,” to be at home in San Diego instead of in Berkeley.

“But I feel like being able to give people an opportunity to be back on campus in any way possible,” he said, “is very cathartic.”

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, went to school at U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.


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