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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

PG&E Helicopters are Out Doing Inspections

Posted By on Wed, Jul 15, 2020 at 3:25 PM

PG&E is conducting line inspections in the area using different types of helicopters. - PG&E
  • PG&E
  • PG&E is conducting line inspections in the area using different types of helicopters.
If you are hearing buzzing overhead, it might just be a PG&E crew conducting transmission line inspections.

According to a new release, the company plans to be in the local area with helicopters and drones this week and next. Flights are expected to occur Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“All the highest-priority conditions found through inspections will be promptly repaired or made safe,” the release states. “Repairs for all other conditions are scheduled for completion as part of the company’s routine work execution plan.”

PG&E also stated that customers along the transmission lines were notified about the inspections via postcards and phone calls.
Read the full PG&E release below: 
EUREKA, Calif. — Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) is conducting its updated System Inspections program in Humboldt, Mendocino and Lake counties using drones and helicopters along electric transmission lines.

The System Inspections Program accelerates inspection cycles beyond compliance regulations to align with wildfire risk. It’s one of many initiatives PG&E has undertaken to protect grid safety and reliability, with other measures including enhanced vegetation management and system-hardening. The program occurs on an ongoing basis to find and fix potential risks to the safety and reliability of the system.

The company is prioritizing work in areas of extreme (Tier 3) and elevated (Tier 2) wildfire risk as defined by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) High Fire-Threat District Map. Equipment along electric transmission lines located in Tier 3 and Tier 2 areas will be evaluated more frequently, while infrastructure in non-high fire-threat areas will be inspected at least every six years.

In 2020, the company plans to inspect more than 15,000 miles of its electric lines. That includes all lines in Tier 3 areas and one-third of all lines in Tier 2 areas. The company is also planning to inspect additional line miles in non-high fire-threat areas.

The inspections will occur through the end of the year. PG&E has notified customers along several transmission lines throughout Humboldt, Mendocino and Lake counties of the drone and helicopter flights via postcards or automated phone calls. Schedules are subject to change.

The inspection areas this week and next are for the following areas:

Humboldt: Bridgeville, Maple Creek, Hoopa, Trinity, Blue Lake, Arcata, Fairhaven, Orrick and Janes Creek.

Mendocino: Hopland, Mendocino, Willits, Fort Bragg, Philo, Elk and Gualala. Lake: line that runs from Konocti to Middletown.

Inspectors are looking at all components of our assets, including cross-arms, insulators and footings, along with critical electrical components and equipment.

Inspectors document findings through high-resolution images, which are reviewed by dedicated teams experienced in system maintenance, engineering, construction and maintenance planning to evaluate identified conditions.

All the highest-priority conditions found through inspections will be promptly repaired or made safe. Repairs for all other conditions are scheduled for completion as part of the company’s routine work execution plan.

Weather permitting and barring maintenance issues, flights will occur Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. through 6 p.m. over the next couple of months.
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Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Humboldt to Implement New Statewide COVID-19 Closures by Friday

Posted By on Tue, Jul 14, 2020 at 3:20 PM

Gavin Newsom - WIKIPEDIA
  • Wikipedia
  • Gavin Newsom
New statewide restrictions ordered by Gov. Gavin Newsom yesterday in the wake of a surge in COVID-19 cases across the state will go into effect locally by Friday, according to county’s joint information center.

All bars without permits to serve food will be closed while restaurants, wineries, tasting rooms, family entertainment centers, zoos, museums and cardrooms will only be able to operate outdoors with safety measures in place.

In a news release following Newsom’s announcement, County Health Officer Teresa Frankovich and Sheriff William Honsal had said they were waiting for more information before taking steps to comply.

Today, Frankovich noted that individual counties cannot take their own course on certain aspects of the statewide order, even if, like Humboldt County, the area is doing relatively well in terms of case counts and hospitalizations. Some parts of the state are under greater restrictions.

More than 30 California counties are seeing “concerning” increases in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and ICU admissions, she said in the release.

“We have talked since the beginning about the possibility for pauses or steps back to manage the pandemic,” Frankovich said. “I know this is challenging. At this time we need to use all of our prevention strategies so that we can reopen as soon and as safely as possible.”

She stated earlier this month that Humboldt County’s recent spike in cases was largely driven by "residents gathering and visiting between households both locally and while traveling, as well as by illness occurring in the cannabis industry workforce."

Read the full county release below: 
California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a statewide order to close bars and transition six industry sectors to outdoor-only operations to limit spread of COVID-19. Local implementation has begun and will take full effect Friday.

The state is requiring all bars that do not have a permit to serve food to close, and these businesses should cease operations no later than Friday.

Businesses in the following affected sectors should offer only outdoor services with safety precautions in place:
Restaurants
Wineries and Tasting Rooms
Movie Theaters
Family Entertainment Centers
Zoos and Museums
Cardrooms.

Outdoor dining, carry out, curbside pickup and delivery are still allowed with physical distancing and other safety precautions in place.

Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Teresa Frankovich said she is hopeful that these actions will help the state avoid a move into stricter shelter-in-place measures.

“We have talked since the beginning about the possibility for pauses or steps back to manage the pandemic,” she said. “I know this is challenging. At this time we need to use all of our prevention strategies so that we can reopen as soon and as safely as possible.”

Dr. Frankovich noted that this statewide action does not permit counties to take independent action on reopenings even though our county is “doing well” in terms of case counts and hospitalizations right now.

“The governor is implementing this order to address the concerning increase in cases, hospitalizations and ICU admissions across more than 30 counties, which represent 80 percent of our state’s population,” she said.

Those businesses that already received certification to reopen from the Emergency Operations Center will not need to resubmit a Business Reopening Plan to offer outdoor services or to reopen once the state again allows these sectors to operate. Humboldt County is not currently on the state’s County Monitoring List and will not be required by the state at this time to fully close additional sectors.

To read the California Department of Public Health’s news release about the state’s actions, go to cdph.ca.gov/Programs/OPA/Pages/NR20-158.aspx. To read the full Statewide Public Health Officer Order, visit cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/CDPH%20Document%20Library/COVID-19/SHO%20Order%20Dimming%20Entire%20State%207-13-2020.pdf.

To read the Governor’s Executive Order granting the authority to issue health orders, go to gov.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/5.4.20-EO-N-60-20-text.pdf. For the most recent COVID-19 information, visit cdc.gov or cdph.ca.gov.

Local information is available at humboldtgov.org or during business hours by contacting covidinfo@co.humboldt.ca.us or calling 707-441-5000.
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PG&E: Future Power Shutoffs to be Shorter, Smaller, Smarter

Posted By on Tue, Jul 14, 2020 at 1:00 PM

The line for gas at Costco in Eureka stretched out of the parking lot and around the block during last year's power shutoff. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • The line for gas at Costco in Eureka stretched out of the parking lot and around the block during last year's power shutoff.
PG&E is rolling out a multi-tiered plan the company says will translate into shorter, more localized Public Safety Power Shutoffs and better communication with the public before, during and after an event.

Prompted by dangerous wildfire conditions, including high winds and low humidity, last year’s massive shutoffs left millions without power for days, putting the medically fragile at risk and wreaking economic havoc across wide swaths of California.

In episodes marked by confusion amid inaccurate information from PG&E, including the possibility of a third shutoff in the region, Humboldt County was plunged into darkness twice in October of 2019 — the first time with just a few hours’ notice.

In reports to the California Public Utilities Commission following the outages, the company acknowledged “falling short in several areas of execution” and stated “communication remains a key area that PG&E is focused on improving.”

“PG&E understands that customers, external partners and communities need consistent, timely and accurate information relating to potential PSPS events,” a report about the late October shutoff states. “PG&E is working to ensure that critical information is available to customers and agencies when they need it and will continue to focus on reducing the cycle time in providing updates to customers, the state and impacted communities, counties and tribes.”
To that end, company representatives outlined a series of efforts aimed at better predicting and mitigating future PSPS incidents during a webinar earlier this month for residents in Humboldt, Siskiyou and Trinity counties.

For the North Coast, a major component is the new ability to separate the Humboldt Bay Power Plant (known as “islanding”) from the main grid, which affords PG&E the option to shield 20 cities and towns in the region from an outage, including Eureka, Arcata, McKinleyville and Fortuna, as well as some tribal communities, areas of northern Mendocino County and parts of Trinity County — depending on weather conditions.

“We have maximized the size of the island that we can safely energize and, although none of the areas within the island were in scope for PSPS events in 2019, we may need to turn power off to some of the areas … if high fire-threat conditions exist locally during future events,” said Carl Schoenhofer, senior manager of PG&E’s Humboldt division.

Weather risks in the counties of Shasta and Mendocino prompted PG&E to shut down the grid that feeds Humboldt last year, which caused the whole county to go dark despite the lack of a localized wildfire threat.
Transmission lines like these carry power into Humboldt County along state routes 36 and 299. - MAIA CHELI
  • Maia Cheli
  • Transmission lines like these carry power into Humboldt County along state routes 36 and 299.
To further reduce the footprint of any future PSPS events, PG&E has also installed 19 “sectionalizing devices” in Humboldt County — which split up the grid into smaller parts and create more flexibility to redirect power. And, the company is looking to install two temporary microgrids — one in the Hoopa area and another in Willow Creek — to power local substations.

All of those efforts will “help keep the lights on for customers in a PSPS event,” PG&E public safety specialist Mike Weaver said. Another part of the program is the installation of advanced meteorological stations to collect weather data on the “granular” level and a new customer communication system.


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Monday, July 13, 2020

T-S: Candidate Filing Period Now Open for Humboldt County’s November Election

Posted By on Mon, Jul 13, 2020 at 4:06 PM

Kelly Erben casts her ballot at a local precinct. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Kelly Erben casts her ballot at a local precinct.
Anyone planning to run for office in Humboldt County's November election can now file for candidacy, the Times-Standard has reported.

Multiple seats will be open on city councils in both Arcata and Eureka, and the filing period lasts through Aug. 7. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, candidates must schedule appointments with the Humboldt County Elections Office to retrieve their filing papers, according to the T-S
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Forest Service: Water Activities Prohibited During Karuk Tribe's World Renewal Ceremonies

Posted By on Mon, Jul 13, 2020 at 3:24 PM

Klamath River at Hopkins Creek, close to Weitchpec. - FILE
  • File
  • Klamath River at Hopkins Creek, close to Weitchpec.

The Karuk Tribe is set to hold its World Renewal Ceremonies in Six Rivers and Klamath national forests from July through late September. In honor of these long-standing tribal traditions, outsiders will be prohibited from entering the water or launching watercraft during the ceremonies, the U.S. Forest Service has announced in a press release.

“The Karuk have conducted their ceremonies along the Klamath River since time immemorial, passing them down from generation to generation,” said Six Rivers National Forest Supervisor Ted McArthur in a press release. “The landscapes and rivers that we think of as the Six Rivers and Klamath national forests are woven into who the Karuk are as a people.”

Beginning at Sarah Totten Campground and continuing down the Klamath River, signs will be posted to alert river users about when and where launching is allowed and take-out encouraged, the press release states.

For more information about the specific locations and dates of the ceremonies, read the press release below:

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Hit or Miss: Californians Describe Vastly Different COVID-19 Testing Experiences

Posted By on Mon, Jul 13, 2020 at 10:56 AM

A phlebotomist takes a finger prick blood sample at a drive-through COVID-19 testing site in Bolinas on April 22, 2020. Bolinas is attempting to test the entire town in conjunction with a UCSF study, one of the first efforts of its kind in California. - ANNE WERNIKOFF FOR CALMATTERS
  • Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
  • A phlebotomist takes a finger prick blood sample at a drive-through COVID-19 testing site in Bolinas on April 22, 2020. Bolinas is attempting to test the entire town in conjunction with a UCSF study, one of the first efforts of its kind in California.

It’s the new conversation starter: Have you been tested?

Was it hard to get an appointment? How quickly did you get results?

As Californians rush to get tested to reassure themselves and their families they aren’t carrying the virus, many have echoed frustrations: Appointments that are weeks out. Tests being denied. Growing delays for results, and lost tests. Confusion about what insurance will and will not cover. 

Others have had a mostly seamless experience — in and out of a testing center in less than 30 minutes and results within a day or two.  Some have even opted to pay more for a “rapid test” and had results within the hour. 

In a CalMatters survey, 170 respondents from Humboldt to San Diego counties shared a wealth of hit-or-miss testing experiences from “super easy!” to “a circus.”  

Coronavirus testing in California has been a challenge since day one. From the pandemic’s beginning, a shortage of supplies allowed for very limited testing and the state set a modest goal of 8,000 tests by the end of March. Testing has since expanded, with the state tallying more than 100,000 tests a day.  The demand, however, is placing pressure on  the supply chain, forcing the state to rethink its strategy. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to announce a new testing game plan on Monday.

“There are not enough machines and equipment in existence to meet the current national and global need for diagnostic testing,” said Dr. David Witt, national infectious disease leader for Kaiser Permanente. “Given the current surge in cases under way, it is highly likely that testing will continue to be a challenge, one that is likely to get worse before it improves.”

As supplies fluctuate and cases surge in different communities, testing priorities can change, Witt said. 

Among respondents in the CalMatters survey, some reported technical hiccups that forced them to return to a site twice or more before actually being tested. Two roommates from Fresno who requested a test at the same time from the same site got appointments almost a week apart. 

Carson Blaker of Los Angeles sat in his car with his windows rolled up for over an hour in 90-degree heat, something he wished he’d known because his car doesn’t have air conditioning. Those without cars said walk-up testing can be harder to come by. 

Miles Campbell of Woodland learned on June 25 that a coworker at the supermarket warehouse where he works had tested positive for coronavirus. He decided to get tested because he lives with his parents and didn’t want to potentially expose them. 

Although he’d heard testing was free, he called his insurance to make sure he wouldn’t be surprised by a bill. He said the representative told him it would cover the cost only if the test was ordered by his primary care provider. 

Campbell, 23, doesn’t have a primary doctor and didn’t have symptoms, so finding a provider to prescribe the test was a challenge. 

By the time he got tested on July 4, he was more than a week into his quarantine period — still not at work and potentially exposing his parents.

“I definitely don’t think it was worth it. I’m going to work tomorrow, my 14 days are up, and I still don’t have the results,” he said last Thursday. 

Campbell’s story is also one of an “essential worker,” which includes food production and grocery store employees. Yet accessing a test was no easier for him. Essential workers, with and without symptoms, are on “Tier 1” of the state’s current testing guidelines, which means they should be prioritized.

Sherrie Totoki, 33, got tested at San Francisco Community College. She was told she’d have results in two to three days, so she made plans to visit her sister who had just given birth in Los Angeles. After a week with no results, she was told the lab never received her test. 

She said that when she got to Los Angeles, she kept away from her family until she found an urgent care center in Pasadena that offered a new type of diagnostic test, known as an antigen test, designed for rapid detection of the virus. 

An hour and  $125 later, she had a negative result. Later that day, she got a second message from her original free test in San Francisco, notifying her that her test had been found. The result: negative. 

“It was worth it because I wanted to see my nephew, but I spent a lot of time trying to get tested,” Totoki said. 

For 74-year-old Andy Lagomarsino of Stockton, waiting for results wasn’t the problem— it was the confusion around how to initiate the test. He said he drove to Sutter Gould Medical Foundation in late June. He was directed to drive up to a parking space and call the number on the parking post for further instructions. No appointment was required; it seemed easy enough, he said. 

As Lagomarsino tells it, he spent more than an hour on the phone, but couldn’t get anyone to answer. He left and came back a second day. Then a third. “Eventually I got tested, but I had to make a big stink,” he said. “Trying to get tested was the biggest circus.”

His results came in the next day.

In an effort to improve testing, California has established a system of more than 1,000 public and private testing sites. The state also put out a testing information website, where people can find testing locations nearby. Many residents jumped at the chance, if only for peace of mind. In the CalMatters survey, 84 percent of respondents said they sought testing even though they didn’t have symptoms. 

California, along with the rest of the country, is again experiencing a shortage of supplies needed for testing, resulting in cancelled appointments, the closing of test sites and longer waits for results. 

On July 4, public health officials asked California laboratories to prioritize patients with symptoms and those in hospitals, nursing homes or prisons.

“It’s an interesting moment,” Newsom said during a press briefing last  week. “There’s some supply chain concerns, at the same time, we’re doing a record number of tests.”

In a preview of his coming announcement, Newsom said the state is looking to increase testing in local labs and hospitals.

But some of these systems have also expressed concerns. UC Davis Health said it doesn’t have enough kits to help with testing outside its system. Testing of its own patients and its employees will continue as is. Sutter Health in Northern California said it’s also looking for supplies from various vendors. 

Kaiser Permanente said that it’s working toward a goal of 20,000 tests a day. “We remain concerned, however, about the availability of needed testing supplies in the coming weeks and months,” Witt said. 

Newsom said he doesn’t want the shortages and backlogs to dissuade people from seeking testing.

“Look, if you have symptoms, if you’re in a high risk category … we want to encourage you to get tested, not be discouraged in some cases by some of these delays,” he said. “Know that we have a team working overtime on this.”

CalMatters health care coverage is supported by a grant from the Blue Shield of California Foundation.

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Sunday, July 12, 2020

Former Crab Signs with the Reds

Posted By on Sun, Jul 12, 2020 at 2:41 PM

Oh, the places you'll go, Crabs, go.

CSU Bakersfield junior and former Humboldt Crabs MVP Damian Henderson signed a professional contract with the Cincinnati Reds on Friday. Cue the cowbell.
Damian Henderson - MATT FILAR
  • Matt Filar
  • Damian Henderson

The Humboldt Crabs gave a shout out to their former teammate on Twitter on Saturday and signed off with hashtag #lifeasacrab. 
We share the sentiment. Congrats, Damian. 
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Barriers to Care: Why Humboldt's Latinx Population is Being Hit Disproportionately Hard by COVID-19

Posted By on Sun, Jul 12, 2020 at 10:01 AM

A Paso a Paso vehicle loaded with produce and ready to make the delivery rounds to its local Latinx and Hispanic clients. - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • A Paso a Paso vehicle loaded with produce and ready to make the delivery rounds to its local Latinx and Hispanic clients.

Standing in Eureka’s La Pasadita Market on a recent afternoon, Isabel Ortiz says she’s had a hard time getting information on COVID-19, how to prevent its spread and what to do if she or someone she knows starts experiencing symptoms. Ortiz, who works at the market, only speaks Spanish and most of the COVID-19 information she’s seen has been in English. She says it would be a good idea for local officials to translate important information for those in the Latinx and Hispanic communities who don’t speak English. She says she’d been planning to go to Eureka City Hall to ask for some but hadn’t had the chance yet.

But even if Ortiz had made it there, she wouldn’t have found much in Spanish, as City Clerk Pam Powell says the city just sends folks looking for COVID-19 information to Humboldt County Public Health’s website, adding that the department also has interpreters on staff who could help people find information.

Officials believe stories like Ortiz’s may help explain why at least 22 percent of local confirmed COVID-19 cases have been found in Latinx and Hispanic community members, even though they make up just 12.2 percent of the local population. Humboldt County’s white residents, meanwhile, account for 83 percent of the population but just 44.3 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

In a recorded Q&A with the local media late last month after Humboldt County first released COVID-19 case data broken down by ethnicity and race, Health Officer Teresa Frankovich said the disparity is not lost on officials.

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Saturday, July 11, 2020

Should the State Investigate Police Shootings? California Rethinks Its Resistance

Posted By on Sat, Jul 11, 2020 at 11:38 AM

If officers shot and killed Sean Monterrosa in Connecticut or New York — instead of in Vallejo, California — a state agency would investigate the June 2 incident, when a police officer reportedly mistook a hammer in the 22-year-old Latino man’s sweatshirt for a gun and fired shots through the windshield of his police vehicle. class="MsoNormal" style="text-indent:0in /

If officers shot and killed Michael Thomas in Georgia — instead of in Lancaster, California — a grand jury could investigate a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy’s claim that Thomas reached for the deputy’s gun during a domestic disturbance call inside the 62-year-old Black man’s home on June 11.

If officers shot and killed Sunshine Sallac in Utah, Wisconsin or Illinois — instead of in Lake Forest, California — an outside agency would investigate the June 24 incident, in which Orange County sheriff’s deputies responded to a residential burglary call and opened fire on the 22-year-old woman of Asian heritage, who they said was standing across the street holding a gun.

Instead, in all three cases and in dozens other California cases in recent years, the departments that hired and trained the officers involved in fatal shootings will determine what happens next. It’s standard protocol in this state, despite the fact that many legislators, local politicians, the families of the victims and, in some cases, law enforcement representatives themselves continue to call for greater outside scrutiny.

As the country contemplates the national ramifications of George Floyd’s final nine minutes of life in Minneapolis, California has its own version of the question: If this state is the nation’s laboratory for progressive laws, why has it been unable to keep the police from policing themselves?

“This one is actually embarrassing for California,” said Democratic Assemblymember Kevin McCarty of Sacramento, who is trying for the third time in five years to pass a law requiring the state’s attorney general to probe deadly officer encounters. “I think it’s a common sense reform that’s ripe for the taking this year in California.”

Yet California’s past three attorney generals — including former Gov. Jerry Brown and the state’s first two attorney generals of color, Kamala Harris and Xavier Becerra, all Democrats — have been reluctant to take on this responsibility, despite already having the authority to do so.

California Attorney General Xavier has resisted attempts to have his department routinely get involved in investigating or overseeing deadly force used by local police. - PHOTO BY ANNE WERNIKOFF FOR CALMATTERS
  • Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
  • California Attorney General Xavier has resisted attempts to have his department routinely get involved in investigating or overseeing deadly force used by local police.

“We are neither equipped nor resourced to take over for the 58 district attorneys that role,” Becerra said in answer to a question from CalMatters during a Wednesday press conference. “On a limited occasion, we do. And usually it’s because a district attorney or his or her office must recuse himself, herself, itself from the prosecution or decision because of some conflict. Or because there is an abusive discretion on the part of the office of the DA. Or some other very exceptional circumstance.”

State oversight — by invitation only?

Nonetheless, McCarty‘s Assembly Bill 1506, which the California Senate is to consider when the Legislature returns from break, is more modest than previous iterations he’s carried that have failed. He’s abandoned the idea of requiring the attorney general to oversee inquiries into every deadly police encounter.

Instead this year’s version would create a new division within the state Justice Department to investigate deadly police encounters only if the local policing agency or district attorney actually asked for such an inquiry. The new division would also have the responsibility to prosecute any wrongdoing it uncovers.

The idea is patterned after laws in five other states: Wisconsin, Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

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Food for People Launches Series of Free Drive-Through Produce Distributions

Posted By on Sat, Jul 11, 2020 at 6:47 AM

Volunteers load food into the trunk of a waiting car at a recent food distribution. - SUBMITTED
  • submitted
  • Volunteers load food into the trunk of a waiting car at a recent food distribution.

Food for People will launch a series of free produce distributions that will continue through October in an effort to help expand access to healthy foods during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has cost scores of jobs and had reverberating economic impacts.

The drive-through produce distributions will start this week and are available in Eureka, Fortuna, Garberville and Redway. Masks are required for all distributions and the nonprofit asks everyone observe 6-feet of physical distancing. Participants are asked to make room in vehicles so volunteers can load produce directly into the trunk for drive-thru distributions.

See the full press release copied below for details and if you're not in need of food but in a position to help your neighbors, Food for People says cash donations are current the best way to lend a hand to the cause. See the nonprofit's website here for more details.

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