Monthly Archives: March 2021

California Passes New York in Covid Related Deaths

California has officially passed New York as the state with the most deaths related to Coronavirus.

As of March 18, the number of deaths currently sits at 56,952 and continues to rise every day.

That being said, the statistics are beginning to show a move in a positive direction. As of February 17, the reported coronavirus cases were down 43%. According to the LA Times, confirmed cases in hospitals have also decreased by 40.3 percent from two weeks ago.

According to 24/7 Wall Street, there is still an average of 3,298 COVID cases confirmed per week in California, as of the week of March 16, and this means that businesses continue to remain at limited capacity, restaurants remain limited to outdoor seating. Hospital beds remain regularly occupied by coronavirus patients.

However, as the vaccine is slowly distributed to the public, the key for California remains limiting the spread of the virus. There is no official timetable for when every person will be eligible for the vaccine currently.

Sabrina, a quality assurance employee for a large produce distributor in California, was eligible for the vaccine because her job involves agriculture. “They basically told everyone in the office it was optional to get the vaccine, but most employees did receive the vaccine now. It’s going to be a lot less stressful knowing we can feel a little more comfortable in the office together,” says Sabrina.

Jared, an EMT in the bay area, received a vaccine very soon after it became available to first medical employees. “It’s just a huge relief. After worrying about a lot of things during the pandemic, it feels good knowing I can still work and go visit my parents with a lower risk of exposing them to anything.”

According to California state health director Dr. Mark Ghaly, “starting March 15, people between ages 16-64 who are severely disabled, and those with health conditions that put them at high risk can get in line for shots.”

Joe Biden has ordered 200 million COVID-19 vaccines to boost the number of shots available for Americans.

To help slow the spread of germs, the Center for Disease Control has recently endorsed double masking to ensure a tight fit on the mask and to allow fewer respiratory droplets out.

As double masking is thought to lower the risk of exposure, there is no mandate on wearing two masks. The California department of public health’s guidance remains that Californians must wear face coverings in public spaces, especially indoors and in areas where physical distancing is not possible.

Another facet that could lead to potentially more cases of coronavirus is in-person learning at schools. As many schools remain online, some schools have taken specific measures to return for the fall semester of 2021.

UC Berkeley began a lockdown on campus on Feb 1 as over 400 people contracted coronavirus. With about 2000 students living on campus, students were required to remain in their rooms at all times. Students were only permitted to leave for seeking medical attention, going to the bathroom, and picking up food.

Violation of these lockdown rules by any student could have resulted in suspension.

The campus quarantine was proved effective as cases dropped, and the school lifted the lockdown on February 15th.

It is essential to stay informed on when vaccine distribution is available to you. You can keep track of this information at covid19.ca.gov.

GameStop, AMC, and the Stock Market

GameStop Stock and AMC stocks seemed to skyrocket after a Reddit post began, now apps like Robinhood have set limits on the number of shares available for purchase. Small independent stock buyers are calling this unfair and only beneficial to the one percent. 

Companies such as GameStop and AMC were at a low in the market early in 2020, once the pandemic hit their values dropped. Gamestop locations are to this day closing their doors permanently, and AMC in most areas have not reopened their doors. 

A subreddit began by a group of the name the WallStreetBets, here anyone could discuss any information on stocks and investments. Here traders have been known to take a gamble on stocks and “meme stocks” quickly caught their attention. (Many of these meme stocks were in correlation with failing companies) 

Add the addition of Elon Musk simply tweeting out “Doge” on Feb 3, and “ur welcome” knowing it would gain major value for the cryptocurrency Dogecoin. 

Dogecoin, a cryptocurrency that has mainly been seen as a joke in comparison to its top competitor, Bitcoin, has had a value typically under one penny for most of 2020. 

When the value of Dogecoin reached one penny, purchases skyrocketed. Cryptocurrency is a currency, that when purchased, can rise or fall in value, and can be resold for US currency without the effects of government regulation. (Some countries have banned cryptocurrency) 

Gamestop stocks increased over 400% within the last month according to Robinhood. Musk also tweeted out “Gamestonk!!” on Jan 26 with a direct link to the WallStreetbets. Though AMC has dropped down, most likely due to Robinhood’s (an online brokerage app for buying/selling stocks and cryptocurrency) limits on share buying, there is still talk of it increasing again. 

Jan 27 AMC stock values were rising, due to subreddits, and the next day was predicted to blow up. Whether a gain or rise in value, traders were ready to buy. But traders quickly realized their orders weren’t submitting on Robinhood, the app was extremely overwhelmed. 

On Jan 28 a message was sent to its users through the app, “Our mission at Robinhood is to democratize finance for all … In light of recent volatility, we restricted transactions for certain securities to the position closing only. We also raised margin requirements for certain securities.” 

The initial message didn’t give direct information on why certain shares (Gamestop and AMC) were taken off and left it’s users in a vague state. The message did state how the app has helped small traders learn about the stock market, “In 2020, more than 3.3 million people read out articles through Robinhood Learn.” Robinhood claims they’re determined to continue their work in making sure everyone has the help “for their long-term financial futures.”

Chris Cuomo of CNN spoke with the CEO of Robinhood, Vlad Tenev, on why they would limit shares on an app that supposedly is to “take from the rich and give to the poor” as Cuomo put it “starve the little guy.” on Jan 29. 

Cuomo’s main criticism surrounded the idea that the limitations only seemed to be placed because it had begun hurting large investors, including one of Robinhood’s main investors. 

Cuomo asks why should people believe Robinhood did this for the right reasons, Tenev responded, “We have no choice, we have to comply with all financial requirements,” Cuomo points out the (SCC) hasn’t declared any of Robinhoods actions as necessary. 

Tenev reinstates that certain brokers have to follow guidelines and regulations and it was in no intention to put anyone down, just necessary precautions. 

Planet Money, a podcast hosted by Nick Fountain and Mary Childs spoke with Annie Masa, an investing reporter at Bloomberg News, on Feb 3. Masa broke down why there are delays whenever purchasing from a brokerage app, and what that means for companies like Robinhood.

Masa starts off by comparing how buying stocks have changed. People would have to call their broker over the phone and place an order for their stock, the broker then would call over to someone who works on the trading floor, New York Stock Exchange for example, who is also making negotiation with yet a third person on the floor who sells the stock, and eventually gets back to the ordinal broker. 

Buyers not only would have to pay for the stock purchase but the broker for the labor. When online brokerage apps became available this cut out having to make calls and prices dropped immensely, but Masa explains that there is still a middleman when you submit an order from Robinhood. 

Robinhood sends your order over to other firms like Citadel Securities, “the company’s in the business of matching people who want to buy stock with people who wants to sell stock,” host Childs summarizes how Robinhood gets paid by Citadel to do this process, and in return, Citadel makes a small profit when there’s a small difference between what buyers are offering and what sellers asking. 

Citadel securities pay Robinhood to make sure that there are smaller traders buying because if there are only big companies selling stocks, Citadel would actually lose money. They need the back and forth trade to make a profit themselves.

Brokerages have to post money (to a clearinghouse) for stock purchases in between the waiting period before you own the stock to guarantee trades, in case buyers decide they want to opt-out. So when hundreds of thousands of people were trying to buy GameStop and AMC, Robinhood would have had to post 3 billion dollars. 

This was a heavy demand for Robinhood, “An order of magnitude,” Tenev stated on social media, one which they did not have. So when the limitations took place on those certain stocks, this was in order to not have to put up the entire 3 billion Robinhood did not have. 

Fountain and Childs make it clear that there is no evidence of market manipulation, however, at this point internet stock traders were wildly upset as they believed they were “pumping up the stock” as Fountain put it. 

On Feb 4, Robinhood had reopened trading for Gamestop and AMC, but the criticism has left a sour taste in most small traders’ mouths, many have now considered other options. 

On Feb 3 Investorjunkie put out its list for its top alternatives to use instead of Robinhood:

  1. Ally Invest 
  2. TD Ameritrade
  3. E* TRADE
  4. Public
  5. Charles Schwab 
  6. WeBull 

While many brokerage apps went through similar approaches like Robinhood, the damage had been done, and although thousands still use the apps, others are starting to gain much more attraction as thousands continue to join the stock market.

Gavin Newsom Proposes New Plan for Reopening Schools

On Mar. 1, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced at a news conference California’s plan to reopen schools around the state. Legislative leaders joined Newsom to discuss the state’s multibillion-dollar plan to incentivize K-12 schools into reopening. The bill would give power to the state’s 58 counties to decide when to reopen schools. 

Under the bill, schools are not required to open. Instead, those that do will receive financial compensation. The package will allocate a total of $6.6 billion to entice and push public schools to reopen and bring students back into classrooms. At least $2 billion of the fund will be grants given to schools that temporarily open kindergarten through second grade by Apr. 1 and bring back at-risk students in all grades.

“Our plan is also geared toward providing schools the resources and incentives that they need to ensure that education can be all things for every child in California,” said Speaker Anthony Rendon at the event. 

The bill aims to safely phase in younger students who are most at risk and benefit the most from in-person learning. Those most at risk include foster and homeless youth and children of color disproportionately affected by the pandemic. A study done by Common Sense and Boston Consulting Group found that at least 15 to 16 million students live in households without internet access or the proper device for distance learning at home. 

Under the proposal, school districts must reopen Kindergarten through second grade classrooms by Apr. 1 to receive funding from the $2 billion in grants. 

However, those that open after Apr. 1 will receive smaller cash grants, and those that don’t open by May 15 would lose their share of the funding. The funds could pay for summer school activities and in-person services like tutoring. 

The plan would allow all districts to start slowly phasing in students, even those in the “purple-tier”- the most restrictive level of California’s COVID-19 tier system- as long as the daily rate of COVID-19 cases is less than 25 per 100,000 residents. 

Once counties move into the red tier — daily case rates below 7 per 100,000 residents — schools that are eligible for grant funding must open all elementary grades, as well as at least one grade in middle and high school. As of Mar. 9, California has 34 counties in the purple tier and 20 counties in the red tier. 

Over 75,000 vaccines will be pushed aside from educators and school employees, Newsom said, and school staff will be prioritized in the distribution of vaccines as well as seniors and those most vulnerable. At least 15 million vaccines have already been administered in California. Schools will also require staff and students to wear masks while in school. 

On Mar. 3, the Newsom administration announced it would dedicate 40% of available COVID-19 vaccines to residents in the most disadvantaged areas across the state, as reported by the LA Times. 

Legislators have also acknowledged how challenging online learning is for students, from technological challenges to mental health issues. 

“This package of funding and supports for our schools recognizes that in-person education is essential to meet not only the learning needs but the mental health and social-emotional needs of our kids — especially the youngest and the most vulnerable,” said Gov. Newsom at a virtual signing ceremony of the bill.

Since the start of the pandemic last year, many schools have been shut down and forced to switch to remote learning. Almost a full year of online schooling across the nation has taken a toll on students, families, and the education system. It’s even more challenging for those who lack the technological resources to access an education. 

For younger students, in-person learning is fundamental to build social and emotional skills. The social environment of schools is critical in children’s development as they engage with others in an academic setting. For older students in high school and college, online learning has negatively impacted many students’ mental health. 

A report from Best Colleges found that 95% of college students have had “negative mental health symptoms as a result of COVID-19 related circumstances.” Out of the 702 college students surveyed, almost half struggle with isolation, anxiety, and a lack of focus. 

“College years are a pivotal time for young adults as they pursue their chosen academic field and have the opportunity to gain independence and learn more about themselves,” said Dr. Melissa Venable, Education Advisor for Best Colleges.

As schools plan to return to in-person instruction, Venable encourages schools to “do all they can to support students as they experience a range of mental health concerns.” 

The Safe Schools for All plan comes after ongoing concerns from parents and schools about reopening districts in a safe manner.

By slowly opening schools and phasing in students through safety precautions and measures, the state hopes to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. However, schools will continue to offer online learning for students and families who are still hesitant to send their children back to school.