Giving back just got easier, after the state unveils a new web site aimed at connecting willing volunteers with badly needed help. And small businesses get more financial aid after the fund quickly depleted. Plus, I talk to the head of the California State Parks Foundation about Earth Day, which celebrates 50 years of honoring Mother Nature.
It’s Arlene Martínez, with Tuesday’s news.
But first, just in time for Mother’s Day, our favorite Golden State chocolatier is back. Darn right I’m talking about See’s Candies. You might remember it shut down last month for only the second time in its history (the other was during World War II). So … hint, hint everyone in my family.
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Let’s start with some quick headlines:
Leader of the pack:California once again had the nation’s most polluted cities on the American Lung Association’s “State of the Air,” with Los Angeles and Visalia topping the list for smog and Bakersfield and Fresno on top for soot pollution.
L.A.’s garment industry has shifted from clothing to protective gear. What’s not changing is the sub-minimum-wage pay and poor conditions workers have long faced.
The state Department of Public Health releases guidelines for how to prioritize patients in the event an outbreak overwhelms hospitals. See the full report here.
A “Reopen California Freedom Rally” is scheduled for Thursday in Victorville. The Facebook group organizing it calls for the state to open the economy by late April to help save small businesses.
In Santa Barbara County, Latinos have a disproportionately higher number of cases compared to their percentage of the population.
Dip your toes in the sand but don’t stay, officials in Ventura County decide in opening up some beaches and parks.
Helping small businesses, one large public company at a time
In this April 17, 2020, photo, Zachary Davis poses for a photo at The Penny Ice Creamery in Santa Cruz. An investigation by The Associated Press found that the federal Paycheck Protection Program, which was supposed to provide small businesses like Davis’ with access to cash to support their employees, also provided hundreds of millions of dollars to large publicly traded companies. (Photo: Associated Press / Martha Mendoza)
Companies with thousands of employees, past penalties from government investigations and risks of financial failure even before the coronavirus walloped the economy were among those receiving millions of dollars from a relief fund that Congress created to help small businesses through the crisis, an Associated Press investigation found.
A San Jose software company was among the at-least 75 publicly traded companies set to receive a combined $300 million in low-interest, taxpayer-backed loans.
On the bright side, the Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that includes $320 billion more in loans to small businesses.
Several communities, including La Quinta, are creating small business assistance programs of their own.
Distance (non) learning, restaurants and a new coronavirus symptom emerges
MidiCi Wood Fired Pizza at Main Street in downtown Ventura on Saturday, April 4, 2020. During the coronavirus pandemic, restaurants are limited to carry-out and delivery service only. (Photo: JUAN CARLO/THE STAR)
In lieu of wading through bulky, inept technology and coursework they struggle to fit in between jobs, some families call it quits, weeks before the academic year ends.
Some restaurants work to stay open despite risks, knowing that if they close, there may be no re-opening.
“COVID toes” join the list of symptoms some coronavirus patients exhibit,even if it’s their only symptom.
Californians, join the state’s new volunteer corps
A new web site in California aims to connect residents with volunteer opportunities. (Photo: Ventura County Star)
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday announced a new volunteer initiative and a website that aims to connect residents looking to give back with opportunities in their communities and across the state.
The new website, californiavolunteers.ca.gov, offers visitors options, including working at food banks, donating blood, delivering meals or joining the California Health Corps.
Newsom said anyone interested in helping out will be matched based on their expressed interests, with local needs. “Rather than you initiating your interest, we want to make sure we engage with you,” he said, adding that organizers would continue two-way conversations with potential volunteers and connect weekly through email.
“From our zoomers to our boomers,” he said, “we want you to volunteer.”
Oh, to be Netflix, a meteor show, find your podcast + Scooby
041719-Lyrid-meteor-shower_Online (Photo: USA TODAY)
Were we all Netlflix: Company adds nearly 16 million subscribers in Q1.
A sky show for free happens Tuesday into Wednesday, during peak time for the Lyrid meteor shower.
Spotify launches 17 new curated playliststo help you find your next favorite podcast.
Worthy of a Scooby snack: “Scoob” skips theaters and will be available to rent starting May 15.
Celebrating Earth Day, pandemic style
On Wednesday, Earth Day celebrates 50 years of honoring Mother Nature. The event’s origins are in no small part traced to one of the nation’s worst oil spills in Santa Barbara.
That was in 1969 and a year later, Earth Day was held for the first time, the result of a bipartisan effort in Washington, D.C. and President Richard Nixon’s executive order that created the Environmental Protection Agency.
1970 was also the founding year for the California State Parks Foundation, which works to promote and protect our 280 state parks. I spoke via email with Holly Martinez, the nonprofit’s director of programs and advocacy, about ways to celebrate while at home, how to explore safely when you’re out and when parks may reopen.
Holly Martinez is the California State Parks Foundation’s director of programs and advocacy. (Photo: Contributed photo)
Q: How would California State Parks Foundation have been celebrating Earth Day had this been a normal year? It’s a big one.
A: Earth Day usually represents an opportunity to bring our communities together to give back to the parks and open spaces that we depend on throughout the year. Depending on the park, this can entail working together to remove invasive plants, teaching the next generation about the importance of conservation in their backyard and the impact of climate change, or simply being together outdoors…
Across our Earth Day events, we’ve brought nearly 90,000 volunteers together to provide nearly 355,000 hours of crucial park maintenance tasks that total about $7.3 million in park improvements.
Q: So many people think of Earth Day as a way to go out and celebrate by helping the planet. We can’t do that this year. What can we do at home – specifically, inside?
A: While we’re doing our part to help flatten the curve by staying inside, we can all focus on the little things that we can do to bring the outdoors home – like having an indoor picnic! We are encouraging everyone to act as stewards of our environment in the face of climate change – create a compost bin, avoiding the battle for paper products at the store and repurpose old clothes for cleaning. Check out Bring the Outdoors Home ideas on our website here as well as our blog How to Celebrate Earth Day Amid COVID-19.
We will also be engaging Californians online with their local state parks through a digital celebration on our Instagram and Twitter.
…In our neighborhoods?
A: While we’re sheltering in place, celebrate today by going for a walk in your neighborhood! Earth day really reminds us that our parks are special pockets of the planet where we can find spectacular natural beauty, spaces to learn and innumerable mental and physical health benefits – a reality that Californians sheltering at home are more aware of now than ever … identify plants and wildlife in your own community that you may not have noticed right outside your doorstep and experience a slice of the health benefits the outdoors provide.
The 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill: An environmental ‘shot heard around the world’
Q: For our littlest planet helpers, do you have a suggestion for fun crafts to do, with things they may already have?
A: Take a nature journal on your neighborhood walk and draw pictures of the plants and animals you see and try and identify them when you get home. There are some amazing apps that can help kids with identification like “PictureThis” and “Seek by iNaturalist.” Many state parks are also offering virtual tours and live experience on state parks as learning experiences through the PORTS program which you can find on our website featuring education resources and tools.
Related: Here are 5 national parks to go explore virtually.
Cyclists ride along the beach promenade in Ventura on Tuesday, April 21, 2020. The City Council voted to allow limited access to parks, beaches and the pier. (Photo: JUAN CARLO/THE STAR)
Q: In Ventura County and other places, some parks, trails and beaches are starting to open. How do you suggest people visit those places safely?
A: For obvious reasons, our current reality has many of us yearning for blue skies, green grass and sand between our toes. Unfortunately, those seeking respite outdoors often failed to heed the basics of what the stay at home orders are meant to accomplish – social distance.
As parks begin to reopen we’re urging people to follow some common-sense guidelines: remain local, adhere to closures and signage, wash your hands and bring hand sanitizer, observe social distancing of at least 6 feet at all times and stay home if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
Q: I’ve seen images of incredible wildlife at some places enjoying having lots of space to themselves, including at Yosemite. Are you seeing anything like that at California’s state parks?
A: Yes, of course. These images show that we are really just so fortunate to share these spaces with such incredible wildlife, and I can speak for myself that I’m looking forward to co-existing with these animals once our parks reopen – even the bears! We feature a photo contest on our Instagram account to experience the nature and beauty of state parks.
A yellow-legged frog in Yosemite National Park, where critters have been enjoying a break from humans. (Photo: Contributed: Center for Biological Diversity)
Q: I can imagine there are ecological benefits for the parks while they’re closed. What are some of those, if that’s the case?
A: We are lucky to be gifted such beautiful public lands in California and while a temporary reprieve from visitors may have short-term ecological impacts, we’re also seeing some long-term consequences. Closures and visitor limitations are significantly impacting revenue sources for these green sanctuaries – revenue that goes to not only keeping parks open but also to habitat restoration, trail improvements and restoring natural ecosystems. Volunteer events have also been put on hold during this time, and our volunteers are incredible champions that protect and preserve these incredible resources.
Q: And now, the question always on people’s minds, when will full access to state parks be restored?
A: Decisions around closures and reopening are being made using all the scientific facts available and with the end goal of keeping every Californian safe during this crisis. This means, that full access to state parks will be restored when the safety of every visitor is ensured.
Green spaces have clearly proven to be a place of reprieve while we all shelter in place and we hope everyone from home joins us tomorrow in celebrating our earth and these spaces we’ve been gifted. Check out our website calparks.org/earthday to learn more about ways to celebrate along with us.
In California is a roundup of news from across USA TODAY Network newsrooms. Also contributing: LA Times, Riverside Press-Enterprise, Lompoc Record.
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