Today I took Penny for her run and did some work around here. I got an email from a friend and he indicated that there is a lot of activity downtown SLO with a lot a businesses and restaurants open. He also indicated that the Elks Lodge be belongs to plan on having a meeting June 2.
Today, San Luis Obispo County reported two new cases of COVID-19, bringing the county’s total to 253 cases. It is the third day in a row the county has reported two cases per day. Health officials say three people are hospitalized with the virus, including two patients who are in the ICU. Twenty-two people are recovering at home and 227 people have recovered. Both of the new cases reported Friday are in Paso Robles, which now has a total of 103 cases to date. Atascadero has 38 cases, Arroyo Grande has 22, Nipomo has 18, San Luis Obispo has 17, Pismo Beach has nine, San Miguel and Templeton each have eight, and Morro Bay has six. Eleven inmates at the California Men’s Colony have also tested positive for coronavirus. Another 13 cases are in communities with fewer than five cases and the health department is not disclosing those locations. The health department reports that a total of 8,397 coronavirus tests have been conducted so far at both the public health lab and at private labs. Two free coronavirus testing clinics are open in San Luis Obispo County — in Grover Beach and Paso Robles. Appointments are required. To make an appointment, visit https://lhi.care/covidtesting or call 1-888-634-1123. For more information on the county’s COVID-19 response, visit readyslo.org.
Open letter from San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow
Dear Leaders and Members of the Faith Community,
Shortly after Gov. Gavin Newsom began issuing orders in response to COVID-19, I began fielding inquiries from leaders in the faith community concerned about the impact on their congregations. While understanding the need for social distancing, many expressed the importance of corporate gatherings to the vitality of their communities. While most congregations have adapted by using remote video platforms, some were not able to do so. Further, it is beyond dispute that these are poor substitutes for in-person gatherings and corporate worship. Understanding these are extraordinary times, congregations in this county have worked hard to follow the temporary emergency orders. As the governor began implementing his reopening plan, concerns were raised about the plan not allowing in-person religious services to resume in Stage 2 while other sectors of the community are (and have been) permitted to reopen so long as they employ social distancing and similar precautions. The concerns have been raised not only by religious institutions, but also by the Department of Justice. Of particular significance, on May 19, Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband, of the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice, sent a letter to Governor Newsom questioning whether treatment of religious activities under California’s reopening plan violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The letter quotes a recent statement by Attorney General William Barr who was at the time addressing restrictions on worship in Mississippi: “Even in times of emergency, when reasonable and temporary restrictions are placed on rights, the First Amendment and federal statutory law prohibit discrimination against religious institutions and religious believers. Thus, government may not impose special restrictions on religious activity that do not also apply to similar nonreligious activity. Assistant A.G. Dreiband goes on to state “Simply put, there is no pandemic exception to the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights.” The District Attorney’s Office is one of the agencies responsible for enforcing public health orders. As such, several weeks ago I directed our Public Integrity Unit to monitor federal and state decisions and to conduct legal research of whether restrictions on in-person religious services are Constitutional. We have concluded that the legal landscape remains unsettled due to conflicting decisions in various jurisdictions. Until there is further clarification from higher courts, this office will not seek criminal enforcement for alleged violations involving those who meet in-person for religious purposes during Phase 2 of the reopening plan so long as social distancing and other health guidelines are followed. My position as we await further clarity is to err in favor of religious freedom protected by our Bill of Rights in light of the concerns raised by the Department of Justice letter referenced above and attached here for your review. Spiritual health is a pillar of a healthy and well-balanced society that values Liberty. Thank you for your valuable contributions towards making our community vibrant and resilient. Finally, I would like to acknowledge and thank the United States Attorneys here in California who are working hard to protect our communities and protect our civil rights guaranteed to us under the United States Constitution.
San Luis Obispo County’s unemployment rate more than tripled in April as the region lost approximately 1,800 jobs, the state Employment Development Department reported Friday. Layoffs prompted by California’s shelter at home order have driven the county’s unemployment rate up to 13.7 percent in April, from 3.8 percent in March. In April 2019, the jobless rate was 2.6 percent. Over the past month, significant job losses were seen in the leisure and hospitality services sector which lost 9,900 jobs. Recently, the county passed an executive order limiting hotel occupancy to 50 percent. During the shelter at home order, most local hotels occupancy rates fell to below 20 percent. However, several coastal community hotels have had occupancy rates of over 50 percent. And while some local residence fear out-of-town visitors will bring higher numbers of coronavirus infections, Pismo Beach has had only had one confirmed coronavirus case in the past 30 days. During the pandemic, the county’s greatest number of confirmed cases, approximately 70 percent, have occurred in inland areas of the North County. In April, 1,900 county residents lost jobs in the professional and businesses services sector, many of whom had worked at Mind and Body, which laid off more than 750 employees. The third most impacted employment sector, health and education services, lost 1,800 jobs as many medical procedures were delayed and childcare facilities were closed in April. San Luis Obispo County is ranked twelfth out of 58 California counties for lower numbers of unemployed workers. SLO County’s unemployment rate is lower than the national average of 14.4 percent and the state’s 16.1 percent rate. In California, Marin County is ranked number one with an unemployment rate of 11.1 percent and Imperial County comes in on the bottom with an unemployment rate of 28 percent.
President Trump on Friday announced that new Centers for Disease Control guidance will classify houses of worship as “essential,” as he called on governors to allow them to open “right now” after being closed during the coronavirus lockdown. Trump announced the policy for churches, synagogues and mosques, during a short briefing at the White House. “The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now–for this weekend,” Trump said. “If they don’t do it, I will override the governors.” “In America, we need more prayer not less,” Trump added. It is unclear under what authority Trump has to override governors. But Trump took issue with certain businesses being open in certain states, while churches are not. “Some governors have deemed the liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential,” Trump said. “But have left out churches and other houses of worship. It’s not right. So, I’m correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released interim guidelines today for communities of faith that acknowledge “millions of Americans embrace worship as an essential part of life” but also warn that “gatherings present a risk for increasing the spread of COVID-19.” The guidelines encourage the use of cloth face coverings during services, limiting the size of gatherings, social distancing during services and suspending or decreasing choirs and singing in church since “singing may contribute to transmission of COVID-19, possibly through emission of aerosols,” the CDC says. The announcement comes after Trump has been hearing an earful from faith leaders who are unable to hold Sunday services due to coronavirus restrictions at a time when their parishioners are grappling with the crisis. Families may be grieving the loss of loved ones from the virus or struggling with job losses but unable to seek respite in their places of worship. On Thursday, Trump had a conference call with 1,600 pastors and faith leaders from around the country, including Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. He reassured them he wants to get churches reopened. The evangelical Christian community was instrumental in supporting Trump during his 2016 White House bid and he has maintained strong ties with Christian leaders throughout his presidency. Trump telegraphed the decision Thursday when he announced he spoke to the CDC on finding ways to reopen houses of worship during the pandemic. “We’ve got to get our churches open,” Trump said Thursday. Churches across the country had to close down due to stay-home orders necessary to stop the spread of the contagious virus. Faith leaders set up online services and families tuned in Sunday mornings from their computers at home. Earlier in the pandemic, Trump expressed optimism that churches would be opened by Easter Sunday, April 12. But April turned out to be an extremely deadly month for the pandemic, and parishioners had to celebrate Easter from home. Some faith leaders have argued that social distancing rules have violated First Amendment religious freedoms. Others have defied state and local rules and tried to reopen. Attorney General William Barr warned that coronavirus restrictions by state and local government should be applied evenly and not single out religious organizations. Last week the CDC released new guidelines that schools, businesses and other organizations can use as states reopen from coronavirus shutdowns. The document, however, excluded guidance for churches and faith-based groups because the White House raised concerns about the recommended restrictions, the Associated Press reported. Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report that showed just how quickly the virus can spread at church. The study showed that two symptomatic people who later tested positive for COVID-19 attended church events in rural Arkansas back in early March. At least 35 of 92 attendees at the events contracted the virus and three of them died. Twenty-six other people in the community with links to the church have also contracted the virus, with one person dying. “We stayed home so the virus quieted down and stopped spreading widely where it was spreading widely, but it’s still out there,” former CDC director Tom Frieden told Fox News Wednesday. “So anytime you have a lot of people together in an indoor space and one of them is infectious, you can have a lot of cases.”
A Maryland pastor who went viral for shredding a local government’s cease-and-desist order to halt in-person services told “The Ingraham Angle” Thursday that he and his congregants are “tired of being told to sit at the house.” Rev. Stacey Shiflett of the Calvary Baptist Church in Dundalk held a Wednesday night service with a reduced congregation capacity that was in line with Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s restrictions but defied a separate edict Baltimore County edict. “I’m tearing up this cease-and-desist order right here and I’m telling you right now, we’re going to do it God’s way,” he told the congregation as he tore up the document. “Pharaoh doesn’t get to dictate to God’s people how they worship their God. God is the one that defines the parameters, God is the one that communicates his Will and his Plan for his church, not Egypt.” Shiflett told host Laura Ingraham the community’s reaction to his stand has been “overwhelming.” “I didn’t plan on doing that, it wasn’t scripted,” he said. “I happened to have it in my hands and there’s two things that get me passionate: one is the American flag and the other is the Word of God. Those two things have been jeopardized here in the last few months. It reached a boiling point for me last night and I decided we couldn’t take it anymore and it’s time to push back.” Shiflett commented on the apparently arbitrary nature of many of the lockdown orders — which restrict access to some places, but not others, and prohibit some social practices while allowing others. “We all know that the coronavirus only goes to church, it doesn’t go to Home Depot, it doesn’t go to the grocery store, it doesn’t go anywhere except to church,” he said, adding that the government has tried to indoctrinate people with the help of their “so-called experts.” “We’re just going to church,” Shiflett said. “We are tired of being told to sit at the house. When a man can take his daughter to the abortion clinic but he can’t take her to church, when a woman can take her son to the liquor store but can’t take him to church, when the marijuana dispensaries are flourishing and churches are shuttered, it’s time for somebody to say something.” The pastor added that he was shocked at how many clergy appear content to go along with government edicts instead of exercising their First Amendment rights and said streaming services online was a poor substitute for physical presence in a church. “You can’t have church the way God intended for it to [be] through livestream,” he said. “It’s time to push back and it’s unfair, it’s unjust, it’s unconstitutional and we are tired of it.” As an increasing number of churches reopen nationwide, religious leaders who defied governors’ orders by resuming in-person services early are considering what to do if states close down again in the fall. Many churches shut down voluntarily in March, and even the majority of those who did not closed after governments either required it or strongly encouraged them to do so. But now that shutdowns have dragged on, provoking lawsuits as well as three interventions from the Justice Department, some churches have become more wary of their governments. Josh Akin, pastor of Grace Built Church in Waynesboro, Virginia, reopened one week before Gov. Ralph Northam’s 10-person limit on services expired in mid-May. Akin said that the move was meant as a “communication” to his community that “the government cannot speak to how, when, or where we pray. “I intend to practice our faith independent of government regulation. We will continue throughout this year to modify and increase our social distancing policies, to do everything that all of our other commercial neighbors are doing — and more — to keep our congregation safe.” To ensure maximum safety, Akin said, he’s gone even further than Northam’s guidelines, which currently require congregations gather at no more than 50% capacity. Grace Built has added several services to its Sunday schedule so that no more than 75 people will likely gather in the church, which can seat more than 300. Akin said he is ready to add even more services if necessary, to space people out. But he drew the line at closing down again. “The principle still stands that it’s the people’s responsibility to keep themselves safe,” he said. “And if people want to worship or pray in our space, I intend to let them.” Joe Wyrostek, pastor of Metro Praise International in Chicago, Illinois, said he’d be willing to shut down again — if the order was supported by reason. Wyrostek, who opened his church in early May, added that he had been willing to shut down in the first place because, at the time, the science seemed to support the decision as the smartest for his community. “Faith and facts put us into quarantine, led us out, and would put us back in if that was needed,” he said. Wyrostek is among a series of Illinois church leaders staging a “passive resistance” to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who has not yet allowed churches to congregate except in groups less than 10 people. The Chicago Police Department on Wednesday began fining churches that did not comply with the order. Metro Praise, along with the Philadelphia Romanian Church of God, which limited its attendance to 75 people for its latest Sunday service, received $500 fines for breaking the order. In California, where on May 31, more than 3,000 churches plan to defy Gov. Gavin Newsom’s complete ban on in-person services, religious leaders are hoping that they won’t be forced into another standoff with Newsom in the fall. Danny Carroll, pastor of Water of Life Community Church and one of the leaders of the coalition, said that he supported Newsom in his attempts to keep the state safe. But in the process, he said, the governor “hasn’t been responsive to our needs at all.” Referring to a Monday letter from the Justice Department supporting the rights of Californian churches to worship in-person, Carroll said it’s no wonder that many religious leaders feel the need to take matters into their own hands. “There’s a lot of us saying, ‘Okay, we just need to move ahead,’” he said. “I don’t think any of us are rebels or activists. We are just pastors trying to get our churches to go to work. We love our people.” If the virus came roaring back, Carroll said he would shut down again. But if that occurs, he hopes Newsom will not issue and enforce orders in what he believes was a counterproductive manner. “Hopefully, he’s learning some lessons this time,” he said. “I always try to believe the best in people, which, I know, sounds a bit naive. But hopefully, it’s not.”
Jonah Grauel, aka Boss Hogg, will be leaving early tomorrow morning to fly back to Texas for an internship in dairy operations. He will be spending 1 week on each position on the dairy learning why they do what they do and how to do it. Grauel is currently an agriculture business management major at Cuesta College.