5 Things California: Virtual NorCal conference, Will Lightbourne, Public health resignations

We have calendared our 2020 Northern California State of Reform Virtual Health Policy Conference for August 18th – only two months away!

You can take a look at the Topical Agenda for a sense of the conversations we have teed up. We’re likely to add more sessions to the one-day event, which you will only be able to access through the conference. Registrants will be able to watch all of the sessions after the event as they’ll be recorded for those with access from the event.

Our Convening Panel advised holding the conference as the legislature was re-visiting the budget, and wrestling with all of the fiscal and policy implications as a result. So, I think the virtual conference will be a uniquely well timed event – that I hope you’ll consider joining!





With help from Emily Boerger

1. Lightbourne to lead DHCS

On Monday afternoon, Gov. Newsom appointed Will Lightbourne to lead the California Department of Health Care Services in the wake of Brad Gilbert’s recent resignation. Lightbourne recently served as the Director of the Dept. of Social Services from 2011 to 2018.

An emailed statement to stakeholders from DHCS featured Lightbourne’s leadership during his time at the Dept. of Social Services: “In that role he oversaw another large and complex Department with a crucial role in California’s safety net, supporting transparency and collaborative approaches to improve the way services are delivered to millions of vulnerable Californians.” The statement said that Lightbourne has also been an advisor to Gov. Newsom on issues of homelessness.


2. Virtual event: Black leadership in US health care and health policy

Next week, we host a virtual conversation with three leaders I hold in the highest esteem across our entire nine state footprint. They also happen to be Black. So, on June 19th – also known as Juneteenth – we will hold a discussion of how health care organizations can grapple with the structural racism built into American institutions. We’ll hear their thoughts, their lessons, and their counsel on how best to address the topic of race in US health care.

The panel includes Eric Hunter of CareOregon, Demetria Malloy, MD, of Anthem Medicaid in California, and Rep. Garnet Coleman, a 30-year legislator out of Houston Texas. It’s a tremendous honor that these three folks are coming together to join in a multi-state conversation. I hope you’ll find time to listen and to be part of the conversation with us next week.


3. Public health official resignations

Seven local public health officials across California have announced their resignations in recent months amid the COVID-19 pandemic.The most recent resignation came from Orange County Public Health Officer Dr. Nichole Quick, who last Monday announced she would leave the position after receiving intense backlash in response to a mandatory mask order.

During a committee meeting last week, Sen. Richard Pan, MD, used his opening remarks to comment on the seven resignations, specifically pointing to Dr. Quick’s experience: “We need to protect our county public health officers. They need to have the support from the state, and it’s sad to say they also perhaps need personal protection. They should certainly not be subjected to personal attacks, to doxing, inciting people to go attack them personally and their families, to bullying and intimidation.” Sen. Pat Bates, who represents part of Orange County, commented in support of Quick and said she done an “incredible job” during the pandemic.

4. Senate committee discusses SNFs

The Senate Special Committee on Pandemic Emergency Response held a meeting on Wednesday to discuss how COVID-19 is impacting California’s skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) and to examine recommendations for the best path forward. The most recent data from CDPH shows there have been 11,431 positive COVID cases among SNF residents and 6,943 cases among SNF health care workers in the state. Over 40% of the COVID deaths in California are associated with SNFs.

During the meeting, panelists described challenges related to PPE, testing, tracing, and workforce during the pandemic. Speakers also discussed the poor past performance of SNFs in providing adequate care. “We entered the COVID-19 pandemic with a nursing home system in need of many improvements in a number of areas,” said Sen. Gonzalez in her opening remarks. Our coverage of the meeting is available here.

5. COVID hits agricultural counties

California continues to face a slow build of new daily COVID cases. In the past seven days, the state has averaged over 3,000 new cases per day, reflecting record high levels. However, the state says these upticks are primarily driven by increased testing, and that hospitalizations and the percent positive rate has remained stable in recent weeks.

But this steadiness is not experienced equally across the state. Many of California’s agricultural counties – including Fresno, Tulare, Kern, and San Joaquin – are part of a group of counties receiving targeted engagement from CDPH due to concerning COVID trends. Also on that list is Imperial County, which averaged over 709 new cases per 100K (state average is 95.3) and a 12.9% test positivity rate (state average of 4.4%) over the last 14 days.