San Francisco Bay Area Wednesday Midday News Roundup

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Spilled Pepper Spray Causes Oakland Post Office Hazmat Scare

A substance that briefly sickened two postal employees and caused the closure of a post office in Oakland's Laurel District this morning has been determined to be pepper spray, a fire official said.

Firefighters responded to the post office at 3630 High St., near MacArthur Boulevard and Interstate Highway 580, at about 10 a.m. when two employees began coughing and experienced eye irritation after noticing a mysterious puddle on the floor, Oakland fire Battalion Chief Jenny Ray said.

A hazardous materials team was called in and the post office was shut down, with eight employees quarantined inside the building, U.S. Postal Service spokesman Augustine Ruiz said.

The hazmat team determined that the substance was pepper spray that had leaked out of a hand-held canister stored in a drawer in a back room, Ray said.

"Two employees were directly affected and they were treated by EMS personnel and released here on the scene ... They're feeling much better now that they're away from the substance," Ray said.

The pepper spray has been cleaned up, and the post office has reopened.

Special Mass Planned In Oakland In Remembrance Of Connecticut Shooting Victims

A special mass is being held in Oakland today in remembrance of the victims of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

The mass was scheduled begin at 12:10 p.m. at the Cathedral of Christ the Light at 2121 Harrison St.

The cathedral holds a traditional Catholic mass daily, but today's mass, led by Archbishop Alex Brunett, will focus on the shooting victims and their families, Diocese of Oakland spokesman Mike Brown said.

"It is really a way to pull the community together in prayer," Brown said.

The choir from St. Jarlath Catholic School in Oakland will sing before and after the mass, he said.

Brown said the daily mass never has a choir, but the St. Jarlath Catholic School choir, made up of children in kindergarten through eighth grade, volunteered to join in the remembrance.

The mass will be followed by a procession and wreath placement on the Cathedral plaza at about 1:15 p.m. The wreath will remain in the plaza for the day and then be moved to the Cathedral lobby.

The mass is free and open to the public. All ages and faiths are invited.

Twenty children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday in one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history.

The shooter, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, also killed his mother at her home, and took his own life.

Nurses To Picket At 21 Kaiser Hospitals Today

Nurses at 21 Kaiser Permanente hospitals in Northern California and the Central Valley plan to hold a one-day picket today in protest of what they allege is inadequate nurse staffing and patient care.

The picketing by the California Nurses Association, which represents about 17,000 nurses at Kaiser hospitals, is set to take place from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The nurses' union alleges that low staffing has become a chronic problem in some Kaiser emergency rooms and other hospital areas.

"It breaks my heart to see patients having to wait too long to receive care, or are not able to access care because of the high co-payments that Kaiser is charging for them," nurse practitioner Lauri Hoagland said.

Kaiser Permanente released a statement saying the hospitals will operate normally during the picketing, and that the union's claims "have little to do with facts."

The statement by Gay Westfall, senior vice president of Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Health Plan Northern California, said Kaiser's nurse staffing levels "comply with, and sometimes exceed, state-mandated staffing requirements at our hospitals."

Westfall said hospital officials have limited flexibility to realign staff under their current agreement with the union, so "we have a surplus of hospital RNs every day at certain medical centers and departments throughout the region -- and a need to supplement staffing in others."

Westfall said, "If CNA is willing to bargain earnestly with us, and with flexibility on our nurses' part, we believe we will be able to have a position for every nurse who wants one."

The hospitals where the pickets will take place include six sites in the East Bay, three in San Francisco and along the Peninsula, four in the North Bay and two in the South Bay.

Richmond City Officials Holding Meeting On Chevron Refinery Reconstruction

Richmond city officials are holding a public meeting tonight to discuss the rebuilding of the crude oil unit that was torched in the August Chevron refinery fire.

Representatives from Contra Costa County, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, Cal/OSHA, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are expected to attend the meeting, which is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in City Council chambers at 440 Civic Center Plaza.

The city is responsible for issuing building permits for the reconstruction of the damaged crude unit.

City Councilman Tom Butt said tonight's meeting will be "an opportunity to provide input into the process before these permits are issued."

City planners will talk about the materials that will be used to reconstruct pipes in the unit and there will be an update on various state and federal investigations into the massive Aug. 9 blaze.

Last week, Chevron submitted to the city a detailed risk analysis report about the type of material used to repair the damaged pipe, according to city officials.

Jim McLaughlin, the city's metallurgical consultant, and David Hendrix, a metallurgical engineering consultant recently retained by the city, are reviewing Chevron's analysis.

Butt said he believes the rebuilding and permitting process in the wake of the fire is now "about as transparent as it can be."

One In Custody After Morning Shooting, Standoff In Albany

Police were involved in an hours-long standoff with an armed suspect in Albany early this morning, a police spokeswoman said.

The standoff began around 12:45 a.m. after officers were called to a home at the intersection of Brighton and Kains avenues in Albany on a report of a person who had fired a gun at two people on the street, police said.

Police said the suspect had allegedly threatened the victims before firing at them.

Officers attempted to contact the suspect, and began a standoff at a home that ended around 8 a.m., according to police.

Police blocked off part of the street around the home during the standoff.

One person has been taken into custody, police spokeswoman Karina Tindol said.

No injuries were reported.

San Pablo's Lytton Casino Employees To Be Honored For Saving Patrons' Lives

Patrons who suffer a heart attack while at the San Pablo Lytton Casino have a much better chance of surviving than elsewhere, according to Contra Costa Health Services officials.

County health officials are set to honor casino employees today for safety programs that have helped save the lives of five out of six people who suffered from sudden cardiac arrest at the casino over the past four years, a health services spokesman said.

That puts the casino's resuscitation success rate at five times the county's overall cardiac arrest survival rate of about one in six, health services officials said.

"San Pablo Lytton Casino is committed to the health of our customers and we're encouraged that the time and training is making a difference," said Christopher Mavroudis, the casino's human resources manager.

Mavroudis attributes the casino's success rate to a focus on training staff members to recognize the signs of cardiac arrest and to respond quickly by calling 911, performing CPR and using an automatic external defibrillator, or AED.

County Emergency Medical Services Prehospital Care Coordinator Pam Dodson said that those steps are critical to survival in heart attack cases.

"We know that once you have all of these things lined up, cardiac arrest survival rates can and will go up," she said. "San Pablo Lytton Casino is doing what every business should be doing - it is equipped with AEDs and regularly trains its employees to know the symptoms of heart emergencies and to act in time."

When people suffer from sudden cardiac arrest, the heart stops functioning normally, causing the person to stop breathing and lose consciousness. The condition is more common among people who smoke, drink, or have high blood pressure or a family history of heart disease, Dodson said.

More information about heart disease can be found at www.cchealth.org/ems/heartsafe.php.

San Jose City College Classes Resume Day After Report Of Gunman Causes Scare

Classes resumed this morning at San Jose City College, the day after the campus was locked down as police searched for a possible gunman.

The campus went into lockdown at about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday after police received word of a possible armed man at the school.

It remained locked down for several hours, but no gunman was found and there were no reports of any shots fired.

The search focused on the college's technology building and neighboring buildings, school officials said.

The lockdown was lifted at about 7:45 p.m.

Body Found After Campbell Fire This Morning, Police Say Death Not Suspicious

Firefighters discovered a body in an outdoor storage unit after putting out a small fire in the carport of an apartment building in Campbell early this morning, a police captain said.

Fire crews and police responded around 1:15 a.m. to a blaze on Kuehnis Drive in Campbell, a fire dispatcher said.

Police Capt. Dave Carmichael said firefighters quickly extinguished the flames in the carport area of a four-plex and located the body inside the torched unit.

The coroner's office was called to the scene.

Carmichael said the storage unit is about the size of a small walk-in closet and that it appears that the person found inside may have been sleeping there. Based on a preliminary investigation, the death does not appear to be suspicious, he said.

He declined to say whether the body found was that of a man or woman.

The fire department is taking the lead on the investigation into the fire and the discovery of the body, Carmichael said.

Portrero Hill School Victimized By Theft To Receive Donated Computers

A school in San Francisco's Potrero Hill neighborhood will receive a donation of 50 computers today after a thief stole a number of computers there this fall, school district officials said.

International Studies Academy, a school for about 400 students in grades 6-12 at 655 De Haro St., was set to receive the computers at noon.

The academy's previous set of computers was stolen from the school's library, leaving students unable to take computer arts classes and do other research, district officials said.

Today's donation comes from various sources, including the San Francisco-based social media agency Silverfox, Computers for Classrooms and the San Francisco Unified School District's information technology department.

Paid for by Phil Ting for Assembly 2012. FPPC ID# 1343137