Find an updated count of COVID-19 cases in California and by county on our tracker here.
Blue Shield to take over California vaccine system
State auditor report says EDD was aware of critical issues before pandemic
Nevada small businesses push for COVID-19 relief
Wednesday, January 27
California’s health agency announced health insurance giant Blue Shield of California will be the outside administrator tasked with ramping up the state’s coronavirus vaccine system, according to the Associated Press.
The state has lagged in getting vaccines into its nearly 40 million residents, with counties and hospital systems operating separate programs. The contract with Blue Shield is still being finalized but its task is to “create, contract with and manage a statewide vaccine administration network.”
It will also allocate doses directly to county public health departments, hospitals and pharmacies. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday abruptly announced a more streamlined vaccination system in which the state would play a more centralized role.
A newly-released report from the California State Auditor says the EDD is to blame for a huge backlog of unemployment claims.
The audit says EDD has been aware of critical issues including an inefficient claim filing process, lack of readily available, qualified staff and poor call center management for nearly a decade.
As a result, when the COVID crisis and associated job losses hit, the department was unprepared. The State Auditor says 800,000 claims were paid late — as much as three weeks after jobless people in need of help filed their claims. Meantime, fraudsters were paid at least $11 billion, and possibly more than $30 billion.
On Tuesday, the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on State Administration pushed newly-appointed EDD Director Rita L. Saenz for her plan to fix it.
“My vision for EDD right now is to get people paid, to stop the fraud, to modernize EDD so that we’re capable of handling the current problems we have and the problems that we’ll have in the future,” Saenz said.
But Committee Chair Assemblymember Wendy Carillo noted a pre-COVID-19 letter on the EDD website outlining essentially what the auditor’s report found: an awareness on the part of the EDD that the department wasn’t prepared for crisis or even running efficiently in normal times, and included recommendations for action.
The State Auditor will publish a separate report on the EDD fraud situation Thursday.
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak is lobbying state lawmakers to pass a component of his budget that funds additional small business COVID-19 relief, according to the Associated Press.
Sisolak joined the owners of a pizza parlor and soul food restaurant on Tuesday for a roundtable discussion on the issues small businesses are facing almost 11 months into the pandemic. More than 4,300 small businesses received emergency relief grants last year to help them remain afloat.
This time, Sisolak proposes using leftover federal relief dollars to double the grant program’s size to $101 million. Meanwhile, the number of new coronavirus cases reported daily in the state has begun to trend downward.
Health officials in Nevada have said that second doses of COVID-19 vaccines will be offered at the Las Vegas Convention Center starting as early as next week, according to the Associated Press.
The Southern Nevada Health District said the appointment-only clinic would open Fed. 2 for people who have already gotten their first doses at a health district clinic and are eligible for second doses. Washoe County health officials were vaccinating hundreds of people on Wednesday despite a powerful winter storm that dumped up to a foot of snow on parts of Reno-Sparks.
The county health district said it vaccinated more than 1,200 people on Tuesday, its highest daily total so far.
Several states, including California, are loosening their coronavirus restrictions on restaurants and other businesses, according to the Associated Press.
Many states plus California attribute the loosening of restrictions because of improved infection and hospitalization numbers, but the states need to move cautiously because of the various highly contagious variants taking hold.
Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted stay-at-home orders just this week after he imposed said orders last month because hospitals were so overwhelmed with virus patients that many were considering rationing life-saving care. Restaurants and places of worship will be able to operate outdoors, and many stores will be able to increase the number of shoppers allowed inside a building.
The COVID-19 death toll in the country has climbed past 425,000, with the death total at a close to an all-time high of nearly 3,350 a day on average, but newly confirmed cases have dropped over the past two weeks.
Tuesday, January 26
President Joe Biden’s administration is working to purchase another 200 million doses of two COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized for emergency use. The goal is to have enough supply for the entire adult population in the U.S. by the end of summer.
“This increases the total vaccine order for the U.S. by 50%, from 400 million to 600 million with these additional doses expected to deliver this summer,” the White House said in a fact sheet.
The president also announced a plan to increase the number of doses going to state and local governments in the next three weeks. Biden has repeated that the vaccine rollout is his top priority.
Read more here.
In an effort to make vaccine administration more equitable, state officials announced Tuesday California will start using third-party groups to help speed up vaccinations across the state.
Yolanda Richardson, the state’s Secretary of Government Operations, said those groups would include community health clinics and pharmacies, as well as pop-up and mobile sites.
“We want to make sure that nothing slows down the administration of vaccine other than the pace in which the vaccine arrives in the state. We’re going to do that by balancing safety, speed and equity, while scaling up to meet the level of vaccine needed,” Richardson said.
Richardson admits the state has fallen short on multiple levels, and has confused people about vaccine eligibility.
After ramping up efforts, the state has been vaccinating 125,000 people on average every weekday.
California’s top health official explained today how the state came to the surprising decision of lifting stay-at-home orders in all 58 counties.
Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said officials used a not-so-simple formula, which considers COVID-19 case rates and growth of the disease, to predict what intensive care hospitalizations will look like four weeks out.
“We know that today’s cases become hospital cases in about two weeks, and those become ICU cases in three to four weeks later,” Ghaly said Tuesday. “So if we want to determine what the impact is on where we want to be at the hospitals, we have to look about 4 weeks out.”
Despite pushback, the actual model hadn’t been revealed until today, which Ghaly previously said was to reduce confusion. Ghaly said there are currently plans for regions to re-enter the stay-at-home order, so counties will remain in the state’s colored tier system for now.
With California’s stay-at-home orders now lifted, state health officials are urging people not to get too relaxed about adhering to COVID-19 safety protocols.
Ghaly says case and hospitalization rates are improving, and will continue to do so as long as people heed safety guidelines, which he says have proven effective.
“Even if our residents aren’t 100% compliant with it, even if it’s difficult to always measure compliance, just the notion that these interventions come into place, three weeks later, you see that beginning flattening,” Ghaly said.
Counties have moved back into the colored tier system. As of today, 99% of the state’s population is in the most restrictive purple tier. Ghaly said a few counties could move into less restrictive tiers in the coming weeks, but at least one county might have to tighten restrictions.
California’s health department released to the public some previously secret projections for future hospital ICU capacity throughout the state, the key metric for lifting the coronavirus stay-at-home order.
According to the Associated Press, the state officials still did not explain how regional per capita virus cases and transmission rates also might influence how much ICU space will be available in four weeks.
Last week, state health officials told the Associated Press they were not releasing all the data because it’s complicated and could mislead the public. The data release comes after coronavirus experts, a public access organization, and a business group said the information should be public.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s political opponents also decried the secrecy around this projection data.
California is revamping its coronavirus vaccine delivery system to give the state more control over who gets the shots, following intense criticism of a slow and scattered rollout by counties.
According to the Associated Press, the state’s health agency announced on Tuesday that a third-party administrator would take over ordering and distributing vaccine doses. This should put an end to a hodgepodge system where each county and hospital system ran its own vaccine delivery program.
The move comes after the state faced much criticism for a slow vaccine rollout while COVID-19 cases soared and hospital beds filled up with patients across much of the state.
President Joe Biden appears to be boosting his goal for coronavirus vaccinations in his first 100 days in office, according to the Associated Press.
His plan includes vaccinating 1.5 million Americans on average per day. On Monday, Biden commented on his plans as talks with Congress about a $1.9 trillion stimulus package showed few signs of progress.
He signaled his increasing bullishness on the vaccination pace after signing an executive order to boost government purchases from U.S. manufacturers.
This was among a flurry of moves by Biden during his first full week to publicly show he’s taking swift action to heal an ailing economy.
Monday, January 25
6:18 p.m.: Newsom pushes back against reopening critics
California has lifted its statewide stay-at-home order, returning all 58 counties to the old color-coded coronavirus tier system to govern restrictions.
The move, announced Monday morning, took many by surprise, with some critics saying Gov. Gavin Newsom was responding to a threatened lawsuit by dozens of restaurant owners and to the threat posed by a recall effort that has recently gained steam.
“Yeah, that’s just complete, utter nonsense,” Newsom said at a noon news conference. “So let’s just dispense with that fundamental, foundationally nonsense.”
Newsom and Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly say the decision to end the stay-at-home order for the three regions of California still under it is based on projections that show ICU capacity above 15 percent in all regions. Newsom says the supporting data will be made public for outside review. The state, as recently as last week, was resisting calls for that data to go public, saying it did not want to confuse Californians.
Researchers in California are using a technique called genomic sequencing to better understand coronavirus variants and outbreaks.
As the coronavirus spreads, it slowly mutates. That may sound scary, but it’s actually a useful breadcrumb trail for epidemiologists.
Joe Derisi is a professor at UCSF and co-president of the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, one of several genomic sequencing labs in California.
“It allows us to track any given viral genome all the way back to Wuhan, China,” Derisi said. “So you have like this historical record of all the accumulated mutations since it started growing.”
That allows public health officials to confirm the source of an outbreak if everyone infected shares the same virus mutations.
Most changes in the virus don’t raise alarm bells. But genomic sequencing can help identify variants that are more deadly or contagious.
The U.S. Supreme Court has refused a rural Nevada’s church’s request to weigh in on a legal battle over the government’s authority to limit religious gathering sizes.
According to the Associated Press on Monday, the country’s highest court denied Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley’s petition seeking to review their case on its merits. Attorneys general from 19 other states recently joined in to support the church east of Reno.
The group was hoping the Supreme Court to rule on this case to help bring uniformity to various standards national courts have used to balance the interests of public safety and freedom of religion.
For many emergency medical technicians in California, the coronavirus risk is always around.
According to the Associated Press, COVID-19 infection has become their biggest fear that could be triggered by riding with patients in ambulances from 911 call to 911 call. Many EMTs and paramedics have lifelong goals of being first responders, but as the risks continue to shoot up, some wonder if it’s worth risking their lives for a small paycheck.
In Southern California, EMTs and paramedics are scrambling to help people in the pandemic’s national epicenter, where hospitals are full to bursting with patients after the holidays. Often, ambulances were stuck outside hospitals for hours until beds became available.
3:13 p.m.: California may extend eviction moratorium
California is considering extending eviction protections through the end of June and paying up to 80% of some tenants’ unpaid rent, according to the Associated Press.
Last year the state passed a law banning evictions for tenants who pay at least 25% of their rent owed between September and January. Currently, those protections will expire Monday, Jan. 31.
The new proposal is being negotiated between Gov. Gavin Newsom, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, and Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins would extend those protections through the end of June. Some federal money would also be used to pay up to 80% of some tenants’ debts if landlords agree to forgive the remaining 20%.
11:03 a.m.: California lifts regional stay-at-home orders
California lifted regional stay-at-home orders statewide on Monday, allowing businesses like restaurants, gyms and hair salons to reopen with some restrictions.
Despite loosening restrictions, health officials feel like “the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over,” and encouraged people to continue wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, and avoiding gatherings with people outside their households.
The stay-at-home order was tied to intensive care capacity, with region’s able to lift restrictions when projections showed ICU capacity over 15% four weeks into the future. The state has not publicly released the 4-week ICU projections for each region, nor has it released the formula used to reach those projections.
Local officials can choose a stricter set of rules, but not less. The state is also lifting a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, according to the Associated Press. The Greater Sacramento Region came out of the stay-at-home order back on Jan. 3, after state officials said the area’s ICU projections exceeded 15%, reverting the counties to go back to California’s colored tier system.
As of Saturday, the Greater Sacramento Region’s ICU capacity is 11.9%, still below the 15% threshold. Sacramento and other nearby counties are still in the most restrictive purple tier system and cannot move into a less restrictive tier until case and test-positivity rates go down.
10:40 a.m.: COVID-19 cases in US drop, but remain high
Coronavirus deaths and cases in the U.S. have markedly dropped over the past couple of weeks but are still running at alarmingly high levels, according to the Associated Press.
The effort to combat the virus is heating up between getting the vaccine in people’s arms and the mutating virus. Deaths in the country are now running at an average of just under 3,100 a day, down from the 3,350 less than two weeks ago.
New cases are now averaging about 170,000 a day, after peaking at around 250,000. The country’s top infectious-disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, says the improvements appear to be the result of a natural plateau after the holiday surge and not the effect of people who have been vaccinated, so he still urges continued vigilance.
10:39 a.m.: Biden reinstates travel rules due to COVID-19
On Monday, the White House announced that President Joe Biden would formally reinstate COVID-19 travel restrictions on non-U.S. travelers from certain countries like Brazil, Ireland, the United Kingdom and 26 other European countries.
According to the Associated Press, the new White House press secretary Jen Psaki also confirmed that South Africa would be added to the restricted list because of concerns about a new virus variant that’s spread beyond the nation.
Biden is effectively reversing an order from former President Donald Trump in his final days in office that allowed the relaxing of travel restrictions. Dr. Anthony Fauci called the new order “prudent.”
Sunday, January 24
A federal appeals court has denied a Southern California church’s request to overturn the state’s coronavirus restrictions barring worship services indoors during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Sacramento Bee says Friday’s ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals leaves the door open for addressing Gov. Gavin Newsom administration’s limits on church attendance if a California county is in a less-restrictive COVID-19 tier.
A three-judge panel ruled against South Bay United Pentecostal Church of Chula Vista over public health orders that restrict religious services from being held inside while virus case rates and hospitalizations remain high.
Saturday, January 23
California’s rural counties will have additional challenges when it comes to vaccinating older adults against COVID-19 — like reaching people who live in remote areas without access to public transit.
Republican Sen. Jim Nielsen says the small counties he represents — such as Butte, Colusa, Glenn and Sutter — are frustrated with the lack of communication from the state.
“And they would like some degree of certainty,” he said. “Officials in government — state and federal — have had months to figure this out.”
Nielsen wrote a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom this week demanding more clarity for counties around how many vaccine doses are arriving, and when.
A recent report from the California State Auditor also criticized Newsom for giving larger, urban counties more economic support during the pandemic.
Friday, January 22
6:06 p.m.: State launches pilot vaccine sign-up website
Want to be notified when it’s your turn to get the COVID-19 shot? The state now has a much-anticipated website where you can sign up, called “MyTurn.”
But for now, the site is only coordinating with Los Angeles County. Health workers and people over 65 in Los Angeles can use the site to schedule an appointment.
People in other counties can still fill out the form, which includes questions about your age, pre-existing conditions and your occupation. The site is expected to improve as more counties get connected.
The state has been criticized for a sluggish vaccine roll-out. Counties say they likely won’t have enough of the vaccine to immunize the general public until this summer.
Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley, a rural Nevada church, wants the U.S. Supreme Court to decide if the government has the authority to limit religious gatherings.
According to the Associated Press, the church east of Reno is pressing the case even after it won an appeals court ruling that found Nevada’s restrictions unconstitutional. Attorneys general from 19 other states joined the church in a friend-of-the-court brief.
The group is urging the Supreme Court to rule on the Nevada case’s merits to help bring uniformity to the various standards courts nationwide have used to balance the interests of public safety and religious freedom.
Advocacy groups are warning that immigrants may be some of the most challenging people to reach during the most extensive vaccination campaign in American history, according to the Associated Press.
Some immigrants in the country without documentation may fear that information given during vaccinations could be turned over to authorities, so they may not seek out vaccines. Immigrants who speak little to no English may also find it difficult to access the shots in their language.
These challenges are particularly worrying for Latino immigrants, who make up a large portion of the high-risk workforce. In order to tackle this, advocacy groups are heading into farm fields to bring vaccines and information to migrant workers and trying to counter misinformation in Spanish and other languages.
Nevada has administered more than 137,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, but state coronavirus task force chief Caleb Cage said things could be moving faster, according to the Associated Press.
On Friday, Case said that the state’s vaccine allocation from the federal government has been “low, slow and weekly” and “is not enough to meet our needs or our capacity.”
The entire state is only getting about 36,000 doses a week, while southern Nevada, where three-quarters of the state’s total population lives, has the ability to administer about 92,000 doses a week. Cage said Nevada is doing everything it can to press for more doses.
California’s public health agency recently surprised local officials by lifting a stay-at-home order in the 13-county Greater Sacramento region for Jan. 13.
According to the Associated Press, how these decisions were made seems to be a mystery because officials won’t share their data despite repeated pledges of transparency. State officials say they’ve projected intensive care unit capacity and virus spread four weeks into the future to make the determination.
State health department spokesperson Ali Bay told the AP, “at the moment, the projections are not being shared publicly,” because officials believe they could cause more confusion among the public. San Bernardino County spokesperson David Wert said officials there aren’t aware of the secret models but would welcome being able to look at the data.
The surge of coronavirus cases in Nevada following the year-end holiday celebrations may have passed, but deaths are still spiking, according to the Associated Press.
Biostatistics chief Kyra Morgan noted that deaths typically increase in weeks following surges in cases and then hospitalizations. Nevada saw its highest single-day number of confirmed new cases top 3,400 on Jan. 7.
On Thursday, state health officials reported about 1,400 additional cases and 47 new deaths from the virus since Wednesday. Nevada coronavirus cases have now topped 266,000 and 3,910 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
California reported a significant surge in people filing for unemployment claims as independent contractors last week.
According to the Associated Press, this has raised some flags about a return of widespread fraud that has already cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars. The U.S. Labor Department said the state received an additional 77,000 claims last week compared with a week earlier, under a program designed to help gig workers and self-employed people affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
The number accounted for more than a quarter of all such claims submitted nationally. California’s Employment Development Department said it expected the increase after Congress approved a benefits extension in December.
Thursday, January 21
President Joe Biden has extended a national eviction moratorium through March, but California lawmakers are still pushing to extend statewide tenant protections.
California’s eviction freeze, which began in September, is set to expire at the end of the month.
Lawmakers say the statewide policy is stronger.
“The federal policy would require tenants to pay all back rent when the eviction moratorium expires, or else they would face immediate eviction,” said Democratic Assemblymember David Chiu, who chairs the Assembly Housing Committee. “California’s current policy would only require 25% of the back rent to be paid when the policy expires.”
Californians will eventually have to pay all back rent accumulated during the pandemic but not all at once.
Advocates and some analysts say an eviction moratorium through March isn’t long enough, and that the state policy should extend further.
“I don’t think anyone expects the economy to be up and running again by the end of March, given that we’re at a historic level of job losses,” said Sara Kimberlin, a senior analyst with the California Budget & Policy Center.
A new report from the center finds the majority of Black and Latino Californians spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent, putting them at higher risk of eviction during a recession.
Chiu says lawmakers and landlord groups are still negotiating how long the extended state eviction moratorium should last.
The overwhelming fall and winter wave of COVID-19 infections hitting every corner across the country appears to have finally peaked nationally, as reported by NPR, even as cases remain high.
Researchers believe that the current wave appears to have hit a high in the past week or two, with steadily declining new daily infections in most states. However, while the caseload seems to be dipping, another surge is still entirely possible, especially with the new and more infectious variants worldwide.
Hospitals are still overwhelmed with patients in many places, but their numbers appear to have peaked and are also declining slightly. It’s down from a peak of over 132,000 patients to Jan. 6 to 122,700 as of Wednesday. Declines in daily deaths could follow soon, too.
Despite the slight downward trends, community transmission is still high in most states, with close to 200,000 daily cases on average. A seven-day average peak of over 249,000 hit the country on Jan. 11.
Port executives, union leaders, and elected officials are all working together to get dockworkers eligible soon for COVID-19 vaccines to prevent a slowdown of cargo moving through the high-density twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
According to the Associated Press, the Los Angeles port executive director told the Los Angeles Times that there’s more cargo at the moment than labor. The International Longshore Workers Union reports that 694 dockworkers have contracted COVID-19 infections as of Jan. 17, and hundreds are taking virus-related leaves.
The call for vaccinating dockworkers collides with a lack of supply as eligibility has expanded from front-line workers and skilled nursing facilities to residents age 65 and older.
2:02 p.m.: Can COVID-19 vaccines be mixed? Not really.
AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin
All of the COVID-19 vaccines currently available so far require two shots, and some health officials say that those doses should be of the same kind.
Basically, the vaccines are not interchangeable, but in the rare event that the same kind isn’t available, it should technically work, as reported by the Associated Press. In England, they offer the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines which both function roughly the same way since they target the spike protein layer on the coronavirus, so their health officials believe a mismatched dose is better than a partial one.
However, in the United States, officials don’t think the vaccines should be mixed, until more studies are done.
According to Naor Bar-Zeev, a Johns Hopkins University vaccine expert that spoke to the Associated Press, if people do somehow accidentally get their vaccines mixed up it’ll “work fine and likely be well tolerated.”
California State Epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan has advised providers to immediately resume the administration of a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine that was previously paused due to possible allergic reactions.
“Our highest priorities are to ensure that vaccines are safe and effective, and distributed equitable and efficiently,” said Dr. Pan.
Previously, Pan recommended “out of an abundance of caution” to pause the 41L20A batch of the vaccine over the weekend. After the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup came together on Tuesday, they examined the batches and had discussions with the County of San Diego Department of Public Health, the FDA, the CDDC and Moderna, before declaring to end the pause.
“These findings should continue to give Californians confidence that vaccines are safe and effective, and that the systems put in place to ensure vaccine safety are rigorous and science-based,” Pan said. “I encourage every Californian to get the vaccine when it’s their turn.”
The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell slightly last week to 900,000, but it’s still a historically high level, according to the Associated Press.
The elevated rate points to an ongoing job crisis due to the still-raging pandemic. The Labor Department’s report underscored that President Joe Biden has inherited an economy that faltered this winter as virus cases continued to spike, cold weather restricted outdoor dining, and federal rescue aid expired.
The government reports that 5.1 million Americans are continuing to receive state jobless benefits, down from 5.2 million in the previous week, suggesting that while some people are able to find new jobs, others are likely using up their state benefits and transitioning to the extended-benefit programs.
President Joe Biden is putting into play his national COVID-19 strategy to ramp up vaccinations, testing, reopen schools and businesses, increase the use of masks, and require masks for travel.
According to the Associated Press, Biden will sign 10 virus-related executive orders on Thursday as the nation worries over new mutations and the pandemic’s deadliest wave.
The new president has vowed to take more aggressive measures than his predecessor to contain the virus. However, he still faces many obstacles, including uncertainty over whether congressional Republicans will help him pass his $1.9 trillion coronavirus package and future plans.
Wednesday, January 20
Doctors and nurses are currently treating 14 patients at the Sleep Train Arena, the former home of the Sacramento Kings in the Natomas neighborhood north of Sacramento’s downtown.
A spokesperson with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) says patients are in beds within a smaller gymnasium at the arena, and their beds are walled off with plastic sheeting.
State officials say the facility is trying to ease the burden on Northern California hospitals by providing care to patients who need skilled nursing, but who are not the sickest COVID-19 patients.
“These are people who can self-feed, they may require oxygen but they’re not intubated,” says Brian Ferguson, spokesperson with CalOES. He says hospitals are taking care of the patients who require the most intensive care.
Traveling physicians and nurses are working at the arena, as well as “disaster medical assistance teams” that the state agency has on hand for emergencies.
Ferguson said Sleep Train is not just to support Sacramento hospitals, but health care facilities throughout Northern California. During the course of the pandemic, he says, it’s been a resource for communities as far north as Butte, Shasta and Lake counties.
“It’s really a regional asset to support the wider area … In Shasta, if there is an overage, maybe they send their patients to Chico, and Chico sends some patients to Sacramento. So it just provides another tool in the tool box of the medical managers who may be running out of options,” he said.
According to the state’s dashboard of COVID-19 care sites that buffer patient surges for hospitals around the state, Sleep Train arena currently has the ability to treat 11 more patients immediately, and the capacity to treat as many as 244 with the proper staffing and resources.
Ferguson says there were as many as 30 patients being treated at the Sacramento arena during this winter’s surge, and that they’ll use the space for as long as necessary.
On Wednesday, California reported a total of 694 new COVID-19 deaths, second only to the 708 reported on Jan. 8, according to the Associated Press.
While this is the second-highest recorded death total in the state, Wednesday also saw the total number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 drop below 20,000 for the first time since Dec. 27.
The AP reports that statewide hospitalizations are down 8.5% over 14 days and that the number of intensive care patients is also dipping downwards. Hospitals are now seeing 2,500 to 2,900 daily admissions, down from totals of 3,500 two weeks ago.
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak laid out ambitious plans on Tuesday to create programs to spur job growth and attract new industries to Nevada as the coronavirus pandemic continues to devastate the state’s tourism-driven economy.
In his State of the State address, Sisolak pledged to invest heavily in job training, infrastructure, and renewable energy to stimulate the economy and diversify. Sisolak acknowledged the devastation caused by the pandemic and conceded that it was far from over.
He said that Nevada can’t just aim for reopening its economy, but must have an economy that will prosper in the future.
Nevada has reported 71 new deaths from the coronavirus, a single-day record that an official called a stark reminder of the virus’ dangers, according to the Associated Press.
On Wednesday, the state’s COVID-19 response director Caleb Cage said that those who died likely contracted the virus in mid-December. Although deaths continue to surge, the number of new cases reported daily in the state has slowed.
It’s a trend that Cage is cautiously optimistic about. Most of those who died had been 70 and older, prompting the state to prioritize the age group for early vaccine distribution, but said distribution poses delays and challenges, especially in Las Vegas.
California Auditor Elaine Howle said the state should have spent more money helping its smaller counties battle the coronavirus, according to the Associated Press.
Howle said the state’s 16 most populous counties got nearly twice the amount per person than the 42 smaller counties. That’s because the state decided to send some of its allocation to those large counties even though they had already received direct funding from the federal government.
The Department of Finance said the state Legislature approved the funding strategy. This audit was the first of Howle’s reports looking at how the state is spending billions of dollars in federal coronavirus aid.
California officials are pinning their hopes on the newly inaugurated President Joe Biden as they struggle to obtain coronavirus vaccines to curb the surge that has packed hospitals and morgues in the state.
Doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been arriving haphazardly as they make their way from the federal government through the state and finally trickle down to counties, cities and hospitals, according to the Associated Press.
San Francisco’s public health department says it’s likely to run out of its vaccine batches on Thursday, but Mayor London Breed and others say they’re hopeful that Biden will provide more vaccination resources after his inauguration on Wednesday.
California surpassed 3 million COVID-19 cases this week.
11:10 a.m.: New CDC director takes over an embattled agency
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s incoming director is arriving at an agency that has been relegated to the sidelines during the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Associated Press, Dr. Rochelle Walensky arrives at the CDC this week as the virus’ U.S. death toll eclipses 400,000. The nation is also trying to work on the largest-ever vaccination campaign in its history while juggling delays, confusion and apprehension.
Experts say that while the agency has retained some of its top scientific talent, it has a long list of needs, including protection from political influence, a review of its own missteps during the pandemic, and money, a necessary ingredient.
Tuesday, January 19
As the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise in California, there are some signs that things may be improving, if only slightly. State Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly says the surge in cases and hospitalizations from Christmas and New Year’s travel and gatherings was not as bad as it could have been.
“The hospital number for the first time in quite some time — we’ve had decreased numbers,” he said. “We saw an 8.5% decrease from the last 14 days, and then similarly a decrease in ICUs over the last seven days.”
Meanwhile, California health officials and researchers at the state’s universities and hospitals are trying to learn more about another variant of the coronavirus. Only days after the so-called “UK variant” was identified here in the state, a different, separate variant has now been traced to outbreaks in Santa Clara County.
Ghaly says scientists are trying to learn everything they can.
“Working to determine if this variant, similar to the UK variant, has any increase in infectiousness, what its impact might be on vaccinations and in other areas of concern,” he said.
Ghaly says the state is not out of the woods by any means and that people must continue to wear masks, maintain social distancing and obey regulations intended to preserve public health.
He added that none of the three regions of California still under a stay-at-home order appear ready to join Northern California and the Greater Sacramento region in relaxing restrictions. To do so would require a projection of ICU capacity greater than 15% four weeks into the future.
While millions of Americans are waiting for a lifesaving vaccine, COVID-19’s death total keeps climbing upwards with horrifying speed, according to NPR.
On Tuesday the official death count reached 400,000. More than 100,00 people have died in the pandemic in just the past five weeks. The deaths are so frequent, somebody now dies from COVID-19 every 26 seconds and the coronavirus is claiming more lives of people in the United States each week than other conditions like cancer or heart disease.
Because the U.S. has a relatively large population, the nation’s death rate from COVID-19 is lower than many other countries in comparison. However, the total 400,000 deaths is higher than any other country, close to four times the death count in the United Kingdom.
Scientists were worried that wintertime could be the deadliest season, and California has found itself averaging now more than 500 deaths a day.
The U.S. is now averaging more than 3,300 deaths a day, well above the 2020 spring surge when daily average deaths hovered around 2,000.
School teachers, college professors, and child care workers have been added to the eligibility list for COVID-19 vaccinations in the Las Vegas area, according to the Associated Press.
The Southern Nevada Health District on Monday added “frontline community support” workers for eligibility, including employees in the food, shelter, court and social services, along with essential public transportation sectors.
On Tuesday, Clark County officials planned a ceremonial remembrance of the nearly 2,900 Las Vegas-area residents who have died since March.
Statewide, health officials reported 1,630 new coronavirus cases and 18 new deaths, bringing the totals to nearly 264,000 confirmed cases and almost 3,800 deaths in the state since the pandemic started.
COVID-19 mutations are rapidly popping up, and health officials say the pandemic could get worse unless people do more to curb the spread, according to the Associated Press.
Every new infection gives the virus a chance to mutate. So far, vaccines seem to still be effective against the new variants, but the longer it takes to vaccinate people, the more likely it is that a version of the virus will develop that can elude defenses.
In the U.S., federal health officials say that the new variant first identified in the United Kingdom may become dominant in the U.S. by March, potentially leading to more hospitalizations and deaths since it spreads more rapidly and efficiently.
With the COVID-19 vaccine slowly rolling out, many people have questions about it. Here are three big questions and their answers.
- Can someone who has been vaccinated still spread the disease?
- “I think it’s hard to say because we’re constantly being bombarded by different pathogens, and we don’t know when your immune system is responding,” University of Washington Immunologist Marion Pepper told NPR.
- In short, it depends. It takes about three to five days for your body to adapt to the vaccine regimen, so experts recommend wearing masks and other protective gear until science sorts everything out and herd immunity is reached.
- Will the vaccine remain viable as the virus evolves?
- This seems to be tricky to answer. Currently, scientists aren’t too concerned about the virus strains spreading globally and fully expect the current vaccines to work. What makes this question hard to answer is that if the virus continues to morph, it could lead to to uncertain consequences.
- How long does the vaccine’s protection last?
- When you get a vaccine, your body naturally triggers an immune response, and in many cases, the body can achieve lifetime protection with certain illnesses like measles, mumps, and rubella. However, some viruses require a booster shot to keep immunity strong, like tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.
- While studies have shown that patients’ bodies have been able to produce immunity for many months following a case of COVID-19, it’s still too early to know the length of immunity. If necessary, booster shots could become available in the future.
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
Just like doctors, nurses, and other health care providers, hospital chaplains have become part of the line of first responders when it comes to caring for people with COVID-19.
According to the Associated Press, hospital chaplains often come and visit those dying to act as surrogates for the family and friends who can’t visit their loved ones due to the risk of them catching the virus themselves. The chaplains hold the hands of dying patients, pray with them and carry in tablets to hospital rooms to allow patients to have video calls with their families.
As reported by the Associated Press, at a hospital in the hard-hit Los Angeles County, the dozen chaplains employed often cover shifts that extend to 24 hours a day, seven days a week to keep up with the patients.
Monday, January 18
The Golden State has become the first in the nation to record more than 3 million known coronavirus infections, according to a Monday tally by Johns Hopkins University.
The Associated Press reports that the grim milestone wasn’t entirely unexpected in a state with 40 million residents, but its speed was stunning. The state only reached 2 million reported cases on Dec. 24 and has now hit 3 million in less than four weeks.
California’s COVID-19 count per capita since the start of the pandemic remains below the U.S average, but its number of new cases per resident in the past week trails only Arizona. The state has seen more than 33,600 deaths to the coronavirus.
The caseload has been so enormous that the latest surge that began last fall has strained hospitals. Officials warn that a recent slight downward trend could reverse when the full impact of holiday gathering transmissions is felt.
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak is not planning to attend President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.
His office said in a statement that because of the pandemic and his scheduled State of the State address on Tuesday, he wouldn’t be able to attend the ceremony in Washington D.C. However, his office has said that Sisolak and his staff have been in touch with Biden’s team and look forward to “a close, productive” and collaborative relationship with the new administration.
Sisolak “sends his best’ to Biden and his team. Nevada’s State of The State address will be prerecorded and released Tuesday night.
COVID-19 deaths continue to climb in nearly two-thirds of American states, as a winter surge pushes the overall death total closer to 400,000, according to the Associated Press.
Amid the warnings that new, highly contagious variants are taking hold, a vast effort for mass vaccination is getting off to an uneven start. While the latest federal data show about 31 million doses of vaccine have been distributed, fewer than 11 million people have received the first dose.
In California, counties are begging for more vaccines to reduce the high infection rate, leading to the state’s record numbers of hospitalizations and death. Los Angeles County recently announced that anyone 65 and older can receive the vaccine, but health care workers say they just don’t have enough vaccinations to immunize so many people.
The death rate from COVID-19 in LA, the new U.S. pandemic epicenter, works out to about one person dying every six minutes. On Sunday, the South Coast Air Quality Management District suspended some pollution-control limits on cremations for at least 10 days to deal with the backlog of deceased people in hospitals and funeral homes across the county.
California State Epidemiologist Dr. Erica S. Pan is recommending that providers pause vaccinations from a specific lot of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines because of a possible allergic reaction.
“Our goal is to provide the COVID vaccine safely, swiftly and equitably,” said Pan. “A higher-than-usual number of possible allergic reactions were reported with a specific lot of Moderna vaccine at one community clinic.”
The lot batch is 41L20A, and it’s currently under investigation.
According to Pan, there’s been fewer than 10 people vaccinated from that batch who needed medical attention. She also mentioned that they’re asking to pause these specific vaccines “out of an extreme abundance of caution.”
The Sacramento Bee reports that the batch was distributed across 287 sites between Jan. 5 and 12.
Sacramento has not received any of these doses, according to the county health department.
The people affected are all experiencing a possible severe allergic reaction during the standard 24-hour observation period. There’s been over 330,000 doses from this lot distributed across the state, and no other allergic reactions have yet been reported.
Those concerned about possible allergic reactions related to the vaccine can head over to the CDC’s website on how health care people will manage anaphylaxis.
Reno city officials have criticized Municipal Court staff after learning they may have secured COVID-19 vaccinations for some city personnel and their families ahead of state and county inculcation order plans.
According to the Associated Press, Reno City Manager Dough Thornley said he learned on Wednesday that court judges and staff — including lawyers, technical support, interpreters and drug testers — all took advantage of an opportunity to skip the line and snag vaccines last week.
The Reno Gazette-Journal obtained emails that showed two judges helped arrange the line-skipping vaccinations through a clinic intended for older residents. On Saturday, the state reported a daily record high of 63 COVID-19 deaths.
The World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyeus said it’s “not right” that younger, healthier adults in wealthier countries get vaccinated against COVID-19 before older people in poorer countries.
According to the Associated Press, Ghebreyesus kicked off the WHO’s week-long executive board meeting by lamenting that one low-income country got only 25 vaccine doses. In contrast, more than 39 million doses have been made for nearly 50 other more affluent nations.
He said that “the world is on the brink of a moral catastrophic failure” in ensuring equitable access to vaccinations. The WHO chief also raised an issue over the “profits” that drugmakers can make in wealthier countries. Austria’s envoy raised questions about the WHO’s program to get vaccines to poorer countries.
The Sacramento NAACP and Black Lives Matter Sacramento will hold a car caravan in celebration of this year’s Martin Luther King Day.
While the city usually sees three separate parades in honor of King’s birthday, this year with the pandemic raging there will only be one, and it will take place in cars. The car caravan route is simple: Start at Grant High School at 9 a.m., then traverse through Land Park, Oak Park and finish at Sacramento State University.
Organizers say the past year has highlighted the inequities faced by people of color, particularly Black residents in Sacramento. They hope the parade can celebrate Kamala Harris who this week will become the first Black woman to serve as Vice President, while also highlighting that King’s dream for racial equality is yet to be realized.
Sunday, January 17
California is closing in on 3 million coronavirus cases as the state tries to smooth the rocky rollout of vaccines during a continuing spike in COVID-19 deaths.
The state reported 432 deaths on Sunday, a day after recording the second-highest daily count of 669.
California’s death toll since the start of the pandemic rose to nearly 33,400.
Lawmakers and public health officials have said the surge won’t be flattened without mass vaccinations, but California has trailed the rest of the country when it comes to inoculating its residents.
Friday, January 15
California’s plan to speed up distribution of the coronavirus vaccine appears to have hit a snag. It’s been disclosed that the extra doses the Trump administration promised to release to states was actually already shipped out last month. In short, the reserve didn’t exist at the time the administration made the promise.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom says the promise was made just two days ago by Vice President Mike Pence and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in a conference call with governors.
“We, already, all of us, are working closely with the incoming administration,” he said. “Hope and expectation is that we get some clarification in the absence of any further clarification by the current administration. As soon as we know, we’ll be able to clarify that.”
Newsom made the remarks in Los Angeles as he toured the mass vaccination site that’s been set up at Dodger Stadium. Officials there said they hoped to vaccinate 12,000 people a day once it’s fully operational.
There are other super vaccination sites being set up here in Sacramento at Cal Expo, though that’s not up and running yet, and at Petco Park in San Diego.
California’s efforts to methodically plan who gets a coronavirus vaccine when are quickly being thrown out the window as demand far outpaces supply, according to the Associated Press.
A hospital in Lompoc planned to give out 100 doses on Wednesday. Instead, it gave out 350 as anxious community members without appointments showed up. This is just one example of vaccine providers not adhering to their own schedules or the rules created by the state.
Things have been complicated further this week after the state widened the eligibility pool to include people over 65. Now, more than 10 million Californians are eligible for inoculation, but only 900,000 have gotten shots.
AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin
Vaccination is likely the best way to prevent COVID-19 in pregnant people since the combination could make people more prone to severe illness or death according to the Associated Press.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said that COVID-19 vaccines should not be withheld from pregnant people and encourage patients to discuss individual risks and benefits with their health care providers.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much more advice because COVID-19 vaccines have so far not been tested on pregnant people. Evidence about safety and effectiveness is reassuring from data in studies that inadvertently included some people who didn’t know they were pregnant.
Whether vaccination would protect fetuses is still uncertain. More answers are expected from upcoming research, including a study by Pfizer and BioNTech that’s expected to start early this year and will include pregnant women.
Attorneys representing Californians in prison are urging state officials and a federal judge to advance about 1 of every 10 people in prison to the front of the line for coronavirus vaccinations.
According to the Associated Press, the lawyers are lobbying to immediately vaccinate about 9,000 people in prison who have underlying medical conditions. The attorney group said it would help ease the burden on hospitals while helping control outbreaks inside state prison facilities.
More than 4,000 of the state’s 95,000 incarcerated people have active infections, including 1 out of every 3 at the California Men’s Colony located on the Central Coast. The issue isn’t just present in men’s prisons, either. One out of every 10 at the state’s largest women’s facility has the virus. An advocacy group says officials bungled their response to the outbreak.
11:57 a.m.: Global COVID-19 death toll tops 2 million
The global death toll from COVID-19 has now reached over 2 million as several coronavirus vaccines are being rolled out worldwide in an all-out attempt to eliminate the virus.
According to the Associated Press, Johns Hopkins University reported that the world reached this grim milestone on Friday, roughly over a year after the coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan, China. This death total is equal to the population of Brussels, Mecca, Minsk, or Vienna.
While it took about eight months to lose the first 1 million lives globally, the coronavirus has continued to spread rapidly, taking only four months to reach the next million deaths.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention health officials have said that by March, the new and more infectious U.K. coronavirus variant will likely become America’s dominant strain.
According to the Associated Press, the U.K. variant has already been found in 12 states but is still fairly rare, making up only 76 confirmed diagnoses out of the 23 million U.S. cases reported to date. Despite this, CDC officials still think it’s likely that the variant is more widespread in the country than is currently reported.
While it’s considered more infectious than the current coronavirus that’s spreading in the U.S., there’s no evidence that the variant causes a more severe illness or is transmitted differently. Therefore, mask-wearing, social distancing, hand washing, and other prevention strategies can still protect people.
As mass vaccinations roll-out across the U.S., some big corporations are offering a small financial incentive to encourage workers to get inoculated, according to the Associated Press.
On Thursday, grocery delivery service Instacart said it will provide a $25 stipend to workers who get the COVID-19 shots. Grocery chain Trader Joe’s said it will give workers two hours of pay for each shot they receive.
Dollar General said it would also provide four hours’ worth of extra pay for each shot they receive. Other companies, like Target, DoorDash and Albertsons, have said that while workers won’t be getting bonuses for getting their shots, the companies are still trying to ensure their workers get access to the vaccine soon.
Placer County officials say they’re now offering an “extremely limited supply” of vaccines to adults over age 65.
The county is vaccinating people at its own clinic and at eight Safeway pharmacies. To make an appointment with the county or Safeway, visit this site.
If you’re a Kaiser Permanente or Sutter Health patient in Placer County and a senior, here’s who to contact:
Only people older than 65, or people who fall under Phase 1A (health workers, long-term care residents and staff), are eligible for the vaccine in Placer County. Proof of residency and age are required for age-based groups, proof of employment is required for occupation-based groups.
The county says one fifth of its population — or about 80,000 people— is over the age of 65. The number of doses they get from the state weekly varies. This week they were allotted 2,925 first doses and 1,200 second doses. They’re asking Placer County residents to be patient until supply increases.
Thursday, January 14
President-elect Joe Biden is unveiling a $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan to turn the tide on the pandemic, according to the Associated Press.
Part of that plan includes speeding up the vaccine rollout, providing financial help to individuals, states, local governments, and businesses struggling with the prolonged economic fallout.
Here’s how the is plan is currently breaking down:
- $1 trillion is earmarked for $1,400 checks for most Americans and assistance with rent payments, food, child care, and utility assistance for those in need
- $440 billion will be broken down into $350 billion for first responders & other essential workers and grants for small businesses, tribal governments, and transit
- $19 billion will go to support and modernize federal cybersecurity infrastructure
Three hundred eighty-five thousand people have died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, and 965,000 people filed for unemployment nationwide, a sign that infections and deaths are forcing businesses to cut back and lay off workers.
Under Biden’s multipronged plan, about $400 billion will go directly to working on the pandemic, leaving the rest for economic relief and aid for states and localities. Another $20 billion would go to a more disciplined focus on vaccination, on top of the already $8 billion already approved by Congress. The Biden team has also called for setting up mass vaccination centers and even sending mobile units to hard-to-reach places.
3:24 p.m.: Disneyland ending annual pass program
Even one of the most magical places in the world is struggling during the pandemic. Disneyland is ending its annual pass program 10 months after the park shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Associated Press, the Anaheim-based park said it would start issuing prorated refunds to eligible pass holders. Disney officials would not say how many people hold these passes.
The announcement coincides with Disneyland allowing county health officers to use their huge parking lot as a large-scale field vaccination site. Since March, the park has been closed because Orange County COVID-19 cases have yet to reach the levels required by the state to reopen.
The rapid expansion of COVID-19 vaccinations to older adults across the U.S. has led to bottlenecks, system crashes, and hard feelings in many states, according to the Associated Press.
In California, counties are begging for more vaccines to reach the millions of older adults that call the state home. Hard-hit Los Angeles County can’t immediately provide shots to an expanded pool because it has only incolculated about a quarter of its 800,000 health care workers.
Santa Clara County health officials have said that they only have enough vaccine doses to inoculate people 75 and older, not the younger 55-and-over crowd. Some state lawmakers are building up the pressure on Gov. Gavin Newsom to expand the vaccination pool even more by adding in nursing students, retired medical workers, firefighters and National Guard members with medical training.
A team of 13 World Health Organization scientists have arrived in Wuhan, China to study the origins of COVID-19, according to NPR.
Reports from Johns Hopkins University show that globally, nearly 2 million people have died due to complications from the virus, and over 92 million people have been infected. Currently, China has been pushing back against the consensus that the virus originated in humans in Wuhan and have suggested without evidence that the virus was brought into China from other countries instead.
While the team began traveling to China over a week ago, Chinese officials had not given permission for the team to enter the country, leaving them in limbo for a bit in Singapore, but the scientists have now arrived in Wuhan.
Recently, Chinese authorities have issued a stay-at-home order and other restrictions on the 11 million people living in the Hebei province after an upturn in positive tests.
Nine people incarcerated in San Diego County have been charged with scamming California’s unemployment benefits system.
According to the Associated Press,District Attorney Summer Stephan said on Thursday that those nine people received more than $160,000 through fraud committed between June and September 2020. The group allegedly lied about their eligibility and addresses on the state’s unemployment assistance applications.
At the time, they were all assigned to a program in San Diego that allows certain people in the state’s prison system to finish their sentences in halfway house settings. The state has acknowledged that the department has been scammed out of hundreds of millions of dollars.
The number of people applying for unemployment benefits nationwide skyrocketed last week to 965,000, the largest application spree since late August, according to the Associated Press.
This shows that the resurgent coronavirus has caused a spike in recent layoffs. On Tuesday, the Labor Department issued the latest figures for jobless claims, and they still remain at levels never before seen levels until the COVID-19 pandemic hit the states.
Before the pandemic, weekly applications typically numbered around 225,000. Last spring, after nationwide shutdowns took effect, applications for jobless benefits spiked to nearly 7 million, about 10 times the previous record high. After declining a bit over the summer, weekly claims have hovered above 700,000 since September.
Wednesday, January 13
St. Rose Dominican Hospital’s San Martin campus in southwest Las Vegas declared a capacity crisis over the weekend, according to the Associated Press.
With nearly half of its 147 beds occupied by coronavirus patients, the hospital had to cancel elective surgeries beginning on Saturday. Other units have been pressed into use for non-COVID-19 patients.
A hospital spokesperson said on Wednesday that patients weren’t turned away, and the capacity plan is set to stay in effect until Jan 22. He told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that two other St. Rose hospitals in the area haven’t issued disaster declarations but are also strained.
The Screen Actors Guild Awards will not share the same air date as the Grammys after all.
According to the Associated Press, the two award shows were scheduled to air on March 14, after the Grammys rescheduled their original date of Jan. 31 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Wednesday, the SAG Awards announced that the 27th annual ceremony has now been moved to April 4 to avoid conflict.
With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to surge across the nation, other award shows, including the Oscars and the Golden Globes, have pushed their ceremonies back as well.
Housing advocates across the country are calling on the incoming Biden administration to extend and strengthen the current federal ban on evictions, according to the Associated Press.
President Donald Trump’s directive, implemented in September by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was extended until the end of January. Given that the pandemic is still ongoing, advocates argue that renters should have protection for the next several months and that protections should be expanded beyond those tenants facing eviction for not paying rent.
Eviction bans were implemented early on in the pandemic by states and cities to keep people housed and avoid a spike in homelessness. Since most of those state protections expired, the federal ban is the only remaining protection in many places. It’s estimated that the eviction ban is preventing more than 23 million renters across the nation from being evicted.
California’s eviction ban is set to expire Jan. 31, though Gov. Gavin Newsom called on lawmakers to extend the moratorium.
More Americans than ever are now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine, but many may still face a wait for their first dose.
According to the Associated Press, states are expanding their vaccination pool to a broader population range and opening up more sites in sports, arenas, and fairgrounds to meet the demand. The latest push is now focused on people deemed most vulnerable to COVID-19.
Who is eligible for the vaccine, where and when they can get it varies by state. CapRadio has a list of what Californians can expect when it comes to the state’s vaccination efforts.
This week the federal government recommended lowering the age threshold to anyone 65 or older. It also began freeing up supplies by no longer holding back the required second dose.
Coronavirus deaths across the nation have hit another grim one-day high milestone, totaling over 4,300, according to the Associated Press.
As the country shifted its attention to the fallout from the deadly uprising at the U.S. Capitol, the overall death toll from COVID-19 has eclipsed 380,000, as reported by Johns Hopkins University.
The new death total is closing in fast on reaching the same number of Americans killed in World War II, which is about 407,000. At the same time, the country is simultaneously facing a political and economic crisis as there continues to be more threats of violence from far-right extremists.
Tuesday, January 12
Counties in California’s Greater Sacramento region expect the state to lift the stay-at-home order in the region Tuesday, ending a six-week period where many businesses had to stop or severely limit operations.
Counties in the region will be reentering the “purple tier,” which allows businesses including restaurants, hair salons and more to reopen with modifications. A source with Sacramento says the county could have a new public health order that would allow the reopening of these businesses by midday Wednesday.
The state typically announces changes in county restrictions once a week, based on the four-week projections for ICU capacity in each region. At the Tuesday midday announcement, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said all regions would remain under the stay-at-home order, but that the state is actively calculating new information and might be updating the status of certain regions late Tuesday or on Wednesday.
You can find more information on the stay-at-home order lifting here.
NEW: We’re seeing stabilization in ICUs & positivity rates. Greater Sacramento is coming out of the Regional Stay-at-Home & going back to purple tier effective today.
We must continue to wear a mask & stay home as much as possible.
There is a light at the end of this tunnel. pic.twitter.com/zHFxiZQqqW
— Office of the Governor of California (@CAgovernor) January 13, 2021
As the U.S. finds itself in the most lethal phase of the coronavirus outbreak yet, governors and local officials in hard-hit parts of the country are showing little willingness to impose any new restrictions on businesses to stop the spread.
According to the Associated Press, both Democratic and Republican leaders are signaling their opposition to forced closings and other measures, expressing their fears of compounding the economic damage inflicted by the crisis.
Others see little patience left among their constituents for more restrictions 10 months into the crisis. It also comes as they are trying to focus on the rollout of vaccines, since Americans will be well into the second half of 2021 before enough people are inoculated enough to stop the virus, according to some estimates.
Nevada officials are changing the state’s vaccine plan to speed up mass vaccination, according to the Associated Press.
Four weeks after receiving its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines from the federal government, about two-thirds of the doses are still in their vials, waiting to be used. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show that six states have administered fewer vaccines per capita than Nevada.
The state released a new plan on Monday outlining how it will direct providers to administer doses to Nevadans with underlying health conditions and specific groups of essential workers since the state finishes vaccinating front-line health care workers and nursing home residents.
Nearly 1.6 million people have signed up and purchased health insurance through Covered California so far this year, according to the Associated Press.
On Tuesday, state officials said that nearly 200,000 more people have signed up for insurance this year, compared with the same time period last year. The deadline to purchase coverage is Jan. 31.
Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee estimates about 2.7 million Californians don’t have health insurance, and of those, 1.2 million are eligible for financial assistance or Medicaid. About 718,000 of people in that eligibility group live in Southern California, where the coronavirus outbreak is at its worst.
The Northern California region reported a steep drop in intensive care unit capacity from 35% Monday to 17.6% Tuesday, the largest single-day decrease seen so far by any of the state’s five regions.
This region is the only one of California’s five COVID-19 regions that isn’t under a stay-at-home order. Tuesday’s drop is the closest Northern California has been so far to hitting the 15% capacity mark to trigger such an order.
If the region falls below 15% ICU capacity, the stay-at-home order would close businesses such as nail salons and barber shops. Restaurants would be restricted to takeout only and retail stores would be limited to 20% capacity. Once the order is invoked, the region must stay under the restrictions for at least three weeks.
Northern California is made up of Del Norte, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Mendocino, Modoc, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama and Trinity counties, and is home to many rural communities that already have limited healthcare capacity.
State and local officials have fined two Kaiser Permanente Bay Area hospitals more than $184,000 in recent months for failing to report COVID-19 infected employees, according to the Associated Press.
The Mercury News reported that Cal/OSHA fined the health care giant’s San Jose facility more than $85,000 after it kept quiet when one of its employees was hospitalized with the virus early in the pandemic.
Cal/OSHA also fined a Kaiser hospital in Antioch $56,000 after the hospital failed to immediately report that two employees were also hospitalized with COVID-19. Santa Clara County officials also fined the San Jose hospital $43,000 after it kept quiet about a coronavirus outbreak that’s infected 60 employees, including one who died.
AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin
Health experts say that people who have previously been infected with the coronavirus should still plan on getting a COVID-19 vaccine once it’s available to them.
After someone recovers from a COVID-19 infection, their immune response should protect them from getting reinfected with the virus right away, according to the Associated Press.
However, scientists don’t know precisely how long this immunity lasts or how strong it is. Without that knowledge, experts recommend everyone get a vaccine to boost whatever immunity they might already have from a previous infection.
Less than a month into the mass vaccination campaign against COVID-19, the Trump administration has unexpectedly shifted gears to speed up the delivery of shots.
According to the Associated Press, a slow start to the process triggered a widespread concern from states and public health officials, but Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced two significant changes on Tuesday.
- The government will no longer hold back the required second doses of vaccines, practically doubling the supply
- States should immediately start vaccinating other groups lower down the priority scale, including people age 65 and older, along with younger people with certain health problems.
This change aligns the Trump administration with President-elect Joe Biden’s plans, who earlier said he would not hold back second doses.
Monday, January 11
Several gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park have tested positive for the coronavirus in what is believed to be the first known cases among such primates.
The park’s executive director says eight gorillas at the park are believed to have the virus and several have been coughing.
The park tested the fecal matter from the troop. It appears the infection came from a member of the park’s wildlife care team who also tested positive for the virus but has been asymptomatic.
Veterinarians are closely monitoring the gorillas who are altogether in their habitat at the park.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced today that three sports venues around the state will temporarily become large-scale vaccination sites.
Los Angeles Dodgers Stadium, PetCo Park in San Diego and Sacramento’s Cal Expo will be transitioned this week .The locations have been serving as testing locations.
Newsom said that the new inoculation centers will help ramp up the state’s lagging vaccination effort.
“We recognize that the current strategy is not going to get us to where we need to go as quickly as we all need to go,” Newsom said. “And so that’s why we’re speeding up the administration, not just priority groups, but also now opening up large sites to do so.”
The vaccination sites aren’t open yet to the general public. Right now, only health care workers and other front-line employees will be eligible to get shots there.
Under the current surge of COVID-19 cases, California is desperately looking for more medical workers for facilities swamped by coronavirus patients, but almost no help is coming from a volunteer program that Gov. Gavin Newsom created at the start of the pandemic.
According to the Associated Press, 95,000 people initially came forward to promise to volunteer for the California Health Corps, but currently there are just 14 working in the field. Very few of the original volunteers actually met qualifications met the qualifications set by the state, and only a fraction of that group had the high-level experience needed to assist with the most severe coronavirus cases.
Only about a third of the original set of volunteers had valid professional licenses, and of those, only about 4,600 people qualified. That number trickled down to only 850 people who signed up, remaining static, despite the governor often pleading for more people to participate.
Originally, the California Health Corps plan was to use volunteers to fill treatment gaps at health care facilities using retired or inactive doctors, nurses, and respiratory care practitioners. They would also be paid what the state calls “competitive wages.”
Nevada on Saturday reported 2,648 additional known COVID-19 cases and 56 additional deaths, making it one of the state’s highest daily fatality increases during the pandemic, according to the Associated Press.
Nevada now has 246,309 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3,450 deaths since the pandemic started a little under a year ago. The state on Wednesday reported a one-day record high of 60 additional deaths.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that these additional deaths on Saturday gave the state a new pandemic-high. Officials anticipate a spike in cases and deaths in the coming weeks following extensive holiday gatherings and travel.
Seven-day rolling averages of daily new cases and daily deaths both increased during the past two weeks in the state.
Every January, huge crowds arrive in Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show, a convention that focuses on technology with 1,960 vendors scheduled for this year. The huge event is often an extravaganza of tech and glitz, intended to set the tone for the coming year in consumer technology.
However, according to the Associated Press, the tech event will now be done entirely online. CES has been reborn as a virtual show, taking place online, where attendees will only be able to view new technology by using technology, aka video streams and chats.
In-display this year, there will be COVID-fighting “coronabots,” a “COVID-19 State of the Union,” and more about digital health. Health care industry speakers will be represented by CVS, the Department of Health Services, and others.
11:44 a.m.: Sacramento County reaches 1,000 COVID-19 deaths
On Monday, Sacramento County passed 1,000 deaths related to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the county, 1,015 residents have died from COVID-19.The county has seen 74,101 total cases and an additional 2,260 cases throughout the pandemic, with a case rate of 43.4 per 100,000 residents getting infected with the virus.
Residents aged 20 to 29 have the highest number of cases at 15,501 over the course of the pandemic, while those 80 or older total most of the deaths at 487. Elk Grove has the highest rate of cases across the county, reporting over 7,000 infects in the past ten months.
As of Monday, 497 people are hospitalized with the coronavirus, and 115 are in the intensive care unit.
California has hit another grim coronavirus milestone — more than 30,000 total deaths from COVID-19.
According to the Associated Press, data from Johns Hopkins University showed that the nation’s most populous state has recorded this staggering death total since the pandemic started nearly a year ago.
Deaths have exploded in the state since a COVID-19 surge began spreading in October. While it took the state nearly six months to record its first 10,000 deaths, in barely a month, the total rose from 20,000 to 30,000. Over the weekend, the state reported a two-day record of 1,163 deaths.
Hospitalizations have also reached dizzying levels as many hospitals are stretched to the limit. Health officials have warned that the worst is still yet to come later this month.
L.A. county will stop using the Curative COVID-19 tests at pop-up testing sites, according to the Associated Press.
Curative is a company that produces testing kits that people use to swab their mouth to test for COVID-19 at testing sites, instead of performing a deep nasal swab.
The Food and Drug Administration recently alerted patients and health care providers that the test could produce false negatives. The county’s Department of Health Services said they will be switching over to Fulgent Genetics tests later in the week. These tests also come in nasal and oral swabs.
The department said the Curative tests used at pop-up sites between Dec. 13 and Jan. 2 made up about 10% of all COVID-19 tests administered at county-supported test sites during the same time frame.
10:27 a.m.: US ramping up COVID-19 vaccination efforts
As the U.S. enters the second month of the most extensive vaccination effort in the country’s history, football stadiums, major league ballparks, fairgrounds and convention centers are all being opened to inoculate a larger and more diverse pool of people.
According to the Associated Press, after a frustratingly slow rollout involving primarily health care workers and nursing home residents, states are moving onto the next phase before the first phase has even been completed.
Shots are being made available to groups such as older adults, teachers, bus drivers, police officers, firefighters, and people with underlying medical conditions. As of Monday morning, about 2.7% of the U.S. population, or 9 million Americans, have gotten their first dose of the vaccine. Experts say as many as 85% of the population will have to be inoculated to achieve the “herd immunity” needed to stamp out the outbreak.
In California, one of the deadliest hot spots in the country, a drive-thru “vaccination superstation” opened in the parking lot near the San Diego Padres ballpark. About 584,000 doses have been administered in the state, totaling about 1.5% of the population.
Sunday, January 10
California is closing in on 30,000 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic as hospitals scramble to find beds for severely ill patients during a continuing spike in COVID-19 case numbers.
The state reported 468 deaths Sunday, a day after setting a record one-day total of 695. California’s death toll since the start of the virus outbreak rose to 29,701.
A surge of cases following Halloween and Thanksgiving produced record hospitalizations, and now the most seriously ill of those patients are dying in unprecedented numbers.
Hospitals warn they may need to ration care as intensive care beds dwindle.
Families and a small-business economy ravaged by the coronavirus and a state agency torn by a related fraud that could exceed $2 billion are at the top of California lawmakers’ fixit list as they return to the state Capitol.
They have already introduced numerous bills responding to the pandemic before they convene Monday in Sacramento. Those range from extending protections for renters to attempting to regain some decision-making authority that they had delegated to Gov. Gavin Newsom.
They pushed back their usual start by one week because of the coronavirus surge. Among their most urgent priorities, lawmakers are racing to extend eviction protections that otherwise will soon expire.
Saturday, January 9
California health authorities reported on Saturday a record high of 695 coronavirus deaths as many hospitals strain under unprecedented caseloads.
The state Department of Public Health says the number raises the state’s death toll since the start of the pandemic to 29,233. A surge of cases following Halloween and Thanksgiving produced record hospitalizations in California, and now the most seriously ill of those patients are dying in unprecedented numbers.
Already, many hospitals in Los Angeles and other hard-hit areas are struggling to keep up and warned they may need to ration care as intensive care beds dwindle.
Friday, January 8
California Gov. Gavin Newsom faced some tough questions about the state’s vaccine rollout while unveiling his budget proposal Friday.
He admits it’s been delayed. So far only about a quarter of the vaccine doses allotted to the state have been administered.
But the rules changed this week to allow more flexibility around the order of vaccinations, to prevent doses from going to waste.
“There’s no one that showed up in line or this person decided last minute not to take it, then there’s this 64-year-old senior who’s there … by definition we want to support that flexibility. So, common sense,” he said.
Newsom says the state will crack down on people who are trying to cut in line for the vaccine, and that he and his family are waiting to get their shots until it’s their turn.
The coronavirus pandemic is as bad as it’s ever been in California, but Gov. Gavin Newsom’s $227 billion budget reflects a healthy economic recovery thanks in large part to wealthier earners.
In his record-high state spending plan unveiled Friday the governor wants to use some of that revenue to help those hit hard by the pandemic. That includes additional grants for small businesses, and a new round of stimulus checks to low-income Californians.
“To basically make those $600 checks that people are starting to receive from the federal government to get them to be $1,200,” he said. “We want to get roughly four million checks out within three weeks of me signing this package.”
The budget also includes more than $350 million dollars for vaccine distribution, though Newsom’s administration says that’s just an estimate.
The governor says his budget includes a record $85 billion for public schools. That does not include an additional $2 billion Newsom wants lawmakers to approve immediately to reopen schools in February.
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said she hopes to welcome everyone back later this year and expressed optimism after a challenging year, according to the Associated Press.
She gave her annual state of the city address virtually Thursday, acknowledging the struggles the city faced but remained positive in her outlook on the new year. She praised city efforts to help small businesses and provide housing assistance to people who are unhoused and residents struggling to pay their rent or mortgages.
The Las Vegas Sun reported that the city was forced to cut $124 million from its budget last year due to economic distress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nevada officials are reporting the most new coronavirus cases in a single day since the start of the pandemic, according to the Associated Press.
On Thursday, state officials reported 3,402 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total to 249,795 cases. Nevada COVID-19 response director Caleb Cage anticipated the spike earlier in the week and said it mirrored other post-holiday peaks the state has experienced.
Nevada has consistently rewritten its record books for coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations throughout the months-long surge that has spared no county — urban or rural. Gov. Steve Sisolak’s tightened restrictions on business capacity and private gatherings are set to expire on Jan. 15 unless he extends them.
Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center has been fined $43,000 for failing to report a deadly coronavirus outbreak that may have been linked to an inflatable holiday costume worn by an unknowingly infected staffer on Christmas Day.
According to the Associated Press, Santa Clara County’s public health department said that the outbreak has affected 60 staffers, leading to one death. County officials have also said the department learned of the infections through press statements issued this week by the Oakland-based hospital chain.
Kaiser is responsible for timely reporting of cases, the county said. The hospital’s spokesperson said it’s reviewing the penalty notice that breaks down to a $1,000 fine for each of the initial 43 cases. County officials have said that this outbreak is not related to the more contagious U.K. strain.
10:15 a.m.: US reaches 4,000 daily deaths from coronavirus
The United States topped 4,000 daily deaths from the coronavirus for the first time, according to the Associated Press.
This breaks a record of 3,900 deaths set just yesterday. The surge is being seen in several Sun Belt states, where spikes of the virus caseload were noted over the summer. Johns Hopkins University shows that the U.S. had 4,085 deaths Thursday, along with nearly 275,000 new coronavirus cases reported.
The numbers are another stark reminder of the worsening situation following the holiday and family gathering travel mixed in with more time indoors with others during the winter months. More than 365,000 Americans have died from COVID-19.
New research suggests that the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine can still work against a mutated coronavirus strain, according to the Associated Press.
Two new easier-to-spread variants of the virus popped up and have put the world on edge. One was first discovered in England, while the other in South Africa. Despite the distance, the viruses share a common mutation.
Pfizer researchers have said that laboratory testing shows that this kind of mutation doesn’t block the mechanism of the vaccine. More tests are still needed to see if any additional mutations that may evolve could be a cause for concern.
The preliminary study was posted on an online research site late Thursday and has yet to be reviewed by other experts.
Thursday, January 7
California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration and the state’s hospital association are at odds over how best to create space for critically ill coronavirus patients, according to the Associated Press.
The disagreement comes as health officials warn that already strained medical facilities will soon be overwhelmed by a new surge from the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
California health authorities reported Thursday a record two-day total of 1,042 virus deaths, with many people infected during the surge after Halloween and Thanksgiving.
The California Hospital Association says the state is moving too slowly to find ways to handle so many cases. State officials counter that moves made this week to limit nonessential surgeries and transfer patients to hospitals with more available beds will save lives.
California hospitals are trying to prepare for potentially having to ration care due to a lack of staff and beds, the Associated Press reports.
The state is grappling with a skyrocketing coronavirus surge, with the second-highest number of daily virus deaths reported Wednesday at 459. More than a quarter-million new cases are being reported each week.
Authorities say Thanksgiving holiday gatherings vastly spread infections, leading the virus to rage out of control across the country. Only Arizona tops California in cases per resident.
In Los Angeles County, Methodist Hospital of Southern California formed an in-house triage team to decide how to distribute resources, although it isn’t yet rationing care, the AP reports.
California health authorities have reported a record two-day total of 1,042 coronavirus deaths as many hospitals strain under the unprecedented caseloads.
According to the Associated Press, the state Department of Public Health’s website on Thursday lists 583 new deaths a day after 459 coronavirus-related deaths. The previous two-day total was 1,013 deaths at the end of December.
California’s death toll since the start of the pandemic now stands at 28,045. On Wednesday, a travel advisory was issued “strongly discouraging” people from out-of-state visiting or entering the state. Californians are also told to avoid traveling more than 120 miles from home except for essential purposes.
Newly elected California Rep. Michelle Steel has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Associated Press.
The Orange County Republican was sworn in just three days ago and recently discovered on Wednesday that she was in contact with somebody who was COVID-positive. While she had no symptoms, she was tested as a precaution, and the results came back positive.
The 65-year-old congresswoman said she would quarantine at her doctor’s advice. Steel — who previously headed the Orange County Board of Supervisors — defeated Democratic Rep. Harley Rouda for the position in November.
Last spring, Steel questioned the need for a countywide mask mandate but later changed her mind and endorsed face coverings in public.
To battle the state’s runaway unemployment fraud, California has frozen 1.4 million claims, according to the Associated Press.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported at the state Employment Development Department said on Wednesday that it had examined existing claims from people who said they lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic and found about 3.5 million claims were “potentially fraudulent.”
Nearly 2 million claims have already been disqualified, and payment was suspended for about 1.4 million people pending verification. The state has acknowledged that the department was bilked out of hundreds of millions of dollars in COVID-19 unemployment funds that went to fraudsters.
The U.S. registered its highest number of deaths yet from the coronavirus, according to the Associated Press.
On Jan. 6, the same day the Pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol, the country recorded nearly 3,900 deaths. The attack on the Capitol highlighted some of the same deep political divisions that have hampered the battle against the pandemic. Trump and his followers have resisted efforts to social distance or wear masks to slow the spread of the virus.
Virtually no state has escaped the latest viral surge, but California has been hit particularly hard, with skyrocketing deaths and infections threatening to force hospitals to ration critical care. As of Jan. 6, 28,045 Californians had died from COVID-19.
AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin
The first COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. and the U.K. require two doses to be taken a few weeks apart.
But according to the Associated Press, the two counties have differed on how closely those guidelines should be followed. While people should get some kind of protection from the vaccine within the first two weeks of receiving it, the pharmaceutical giants also differ on the waiting period before the second shot.
The Pfizer and BioNTech shot regiment should follow up with a second shot three weeks after the first, while for Moderna, the second shot can be administered four weeks later. Despite this, the U.K. says it’s OK to delay the booster shots for as long as 12 weeks to speed up the number of people receiving their first shots.
Regulators in the U.S. have skipped that plan since it’s unknown how long the first dose’s partial protection can last.
While the number of Americans seeking unemployment aid fell slightly to 787,000 applicants, these numbers still show evidence of a job market stumbling in the face of a viral pandemic.
According to the Associated Press, as we enter month 10 of the pandemic in the U.S., figures from the Labor Department showed that many employers are still cutting jobs as the pandemic tightens business restricts and leads anxious consumers to stay home.
Before the recession, roughly 225,000 Americans applied for unemployment benefits weekly. Now, the renewed viral surge has changed the habits of millions of consumers as they avoid eating out, shopping and traveling.
TD Securities economists estimate that more than half of all states are now limiting gatherings to 10 people or less, which is up from a roughly quarter of states that enacted these restrictions back in September.
Wednesday, January 6
After a year of small businesses closing and reopening, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced his proposed $4 billion in state spending to keep them afloat in 2021.
According to the Associated Press, Newsom was the first U.S. governor to impose a statewide stay-at-home order due to the pandemic, but a recent swell of cases have caused various forms of restrictions to linger into 2021, impacting many retail stores during the year’s typically busiest shopping season.
While people with often higher incomes were more likely able to keep their jobs and work from home, many people with lower incomes, like retail and restaurant workers, either lost their jobs or were put on unpaid furlough. Frustration has overwhelmed many, leading to a recall effort against Newsom.
The state spending he announced on Tuesday will be split up a few ways. Close to half the money, totaling $1.5 billion, will go towards people purchasing electric cars and construction jobs to set up more charging stations across the state as a part of the ban on the sale of all new gas-powered cars by 2035.
Small businesses are earmarked $575 million, with grants of up to $25,000 available to small business owners. Newsom and the state Legislature has already given $500 million to the program, so if the new proposal is approved, more than $1 billion will be available to small business owners.
A recent report says that more than $40 million in California unemployment benefits earmarked for people left jobless by the coronavirus pandemic probably went to out-of-state jails and prisons.
According to the Associated Press, The Los Angeles Times reviewed an analysis commissioned by the state’s Employment Development Department and found that the EDD approved more than 6,000 claims involving people who were probably incarcerated out of state.
At least 2,000 of those claims came from Florida jails and prisons. The EDD has acknowledged it paid about $400 million to Californians incarcerated in-state, including some on death row.
Hospitals in California are so swamped by the mounting coronavirus cases that the state has ordered those with available space to accept patients from others that have run out of intensive care beds.
According to the Associated Press, the public health order issued Tuesday could result in patients being shipped to Northern California from Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley. Within those regions, 14 counties were also ordered to delay nonessential and “non-life-threatening” surgeries.
For much of the year, California has managed to avoid a catastrophe, but now the virus is raging, and California remains at or near the top of states with the newest cases per capita.
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak will pre-record his second State of the State address due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Associated Press.
As a health precaution, the pre-recorded address will go online on Jan. 19. The governor announced Tuesday that he would also release his proposed budget the day before his address. The speech will also emphasize the governor’s priorities before the state’s legislative session begins in February.
The state is facing a substantial deficit because of the pandemic. In November, Sisolak had told state agencies to prepare for 12% budget cuts in each of the next two fiscal years. A special session last summer had made $1 billion in cuts from the previous budget.
12:18 p.m.: California extends an extra $600 payment to low-income residents
Millions of low-income Californians would get a $600 payment from the state under a new budget proposal by Gov. Gavin Newsom, according to the Associated Press.
The proposed payment announced Wednesday would go to residents with annual incomes of less than $30,000 a year. The pool of eligible people includes some immigrants who are undocumented and file taxes with the state. Roughly 4 million people would be eligible for the payment for a total state cost of $2.4 billion.
Newsom is asking lawmakers to approve the proposal quickly, so people can get their funds starting in February. The governor is also asking the Legislature to extend a moratorium on evictions.
Tuesday, January 5
Health officials say it’s too early to tell whether a highly-criticized New Year’s Eve celebration in Granite Bay was a super-spreader event.
The largely-maskless event that has drawn the ire of many, including Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg.
For those who attended the party, health officials suggest one thing.
“Anybody who was at that party should be quarantining right now,” said Susie Welty, an epidemiologist at UC San Francisco.
Welty says slow testing turnaround times and a lack of public trust make contact tracing a large social gathering more difficult, especially as COVID-19 cases spike during the holidays.
“It’s just the scale of this. The number of cases,” she said. “The number of contacts we have. We’re not equipped for this sort of public health response.”
Officials suggest getting tested after five days of isolating in response to an exposure. So it’s too early to know whether the gathering will result in confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Welty said contact tracers are doing their best, but there is little they can do when people aren’t heading health advice.
The freezer holding 850 doses of the Moderna COVID vaccine failed at Adventist Health Ukiah Valley Medical Center Monday. So did the alarm that would have warned of the failure, leaving the hospital just two and a half hours to vaccinate that many people or watch the doses spoil.
Adventist gave shots based on Monday’s priority list, set up four mobile vaccination pop-up locations and put out the word in the Mendocino County community of 16,000. Mendocino College math professor Leslie Banta got the call just after 1 p.m.
“Hurried over to the church, did not have to wait in line very long, and had my shot at 1:30,” Banta said. “The dosages expired at two o’clock. So they were able to vaccinate nearly 800 people in about two hours, It was amazing work on their part. It took a heroic effort for their staff.”
All the doses were administered before the deadline. Those who got the vaccine will be contacted in the next three weeks or so to come back for the follow-up second dose.
Music fans will have to wait a bit longer for this year’s Grammy Awards ceremony. According to the Associated Press, the 2021 Grammy Awards will no longer be held this month and will ultimately be broadcast in March due to the recent increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths in California.
The Recording Academy told the AP on Tuesday that the annual show would shift from its original Jan. 31 broadcast to a yet-to-be-announced date in March. Beyoncé is a leading contender this year with nine nominations.
The award show will still be held in Los Angeles at the Staples Center, despite the county being the epicenter of California’s crisis.
L.A. County has surpassed 10,000 COVID-19 deaths, totaling about 40% of the total deaths statewide.
Nevada Health officials are planning to begin COVID-19 vaccinations for people aged 75 and above, according to the Associated Press.
The inoculation effort could begin at pharmacies in Clark County as soon as next week. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Monday that a Southern Nevada Health District spokesperson said the start date could be as soon as Jan. 11.
Vaccination efforts in the state have focused so far on front-line health care workers, staff, and residents in long-term care facilities. A Nevada Health and Human Services spokesperson said multiple counties could “soon” begin vaccinating people in the state’s second-tier priority group, which includes older adults.
Both health agencies have said that more information will be released as details are confirmed.
ICU capacity in Sacramento area hospitals has been hovering below 15% in the past several days.
On Monday, the capacity fell to 12%, according to Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye. The region will remain under California’s regional stay-at-home order until state projections show ICU capcity above 15% capacity four weeks out.
“We’re still in that situation where it’s tenuous; we have to be cautious,” she said on CapRadio’s Insight. “We’re not out of the danger just yet.”
Health officials are still waiting to see if there will ultimately be any post-holiday COVID-19 surge. Meanwhile, Kasirye said she’s disheartened to hear about people not taking California’s regional stay-at-home orders seriously, especially in the light of the Granite Bay New Year’s Eve party attended by hundreds.
“I think it is saddening to find that people are still choosing to ignore the warnings that we are putting out.”
Distribution hiccups and logistical challenges have slowed the initial coronavirus vaccine in California, according to the Associated Press.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said that the current pace is “not good enough” as virus caseloads continue to spike across the state. Out of California’s 30 million residents, only about 1% of the state has been inoculated.
About 454,000 doses have been administered, but that’s just a quarter of the 1.3 million the state has received so far. On Monday, the state’s death toll topped 26,500, and confirmed cases soared near 2.4 million since the start of the pandemic. State hospitals are swamped with more than 22,000 COVID-19 patients.
AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin
If you’ve already had the coronavirus, it’s possible you could get reinfected, but these cases seem to be rare, according to the Associated Press.
While some reinfections have been confirmed, two new studies suggest that it would be unusual to get the virus again for at least several months, and maybe longer. In one study, only 0.3% of U.S. people who were previously infected tested positive again over the next several months.
A similarly low rate of reinfections was found in a study of U.K. health workers. The findings seem to bode well for current COVID-19 vaccines, which trigger the kind of immune responses that the studies found protective.
Placer County health officials are encouraging the hundreds of partygoers who attended a New Year’s Eve party at the posh Granite Bay home formerly owned by actor Eddie Murphy to get tested for COVID-19 and self-isolate.
Placer County Sheriff spokesperson Angela Musallam said the deputies did respond to a noise complaint coming from the house party but said it would have been unconstitutional for them to enforce Gov. Gavin Newsom’s public health orders.
“You know, while it was disappointing to see that, this is not within law enforcement’s purview to even enforce,” Musallam said.
The county couldn’t confirm social media reports that some party attendees have begun experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. The interim health official said people who attended any large gathering over the holidays should get tested for the virus and avoid others.
Monday, January 4
Sacramento City Council will discuss the city’s Tenant Protection Program Tuesday as the deadline for paying back-rent approaches.
The program was put in place in 2019 and amended last year to protect renters from evictions during the pandemic. But Councilmember Katie Valenzuela said the program is not providing the protections it should for tenants struggling to pay rent.
Valenzuela says she hopes more innovative solutions to strengthen protections for renters can be considered.
“Converting back rent owed into consumer debt, so I still owe you as my landlord, but it can no longer be grounds for eviction and the repayment schedule can be negotiated based on what the tenant can afford and what the landlord needs,” Valenzuela said, as one option that could assist renters.
The California Apartment Association representing landlords said their members have been in compliance with rental programs. But they’ve noted in the past that stronger tenant protections could push out small mom and pop landlords.
Gov. Gavin Newsom is promising to speed up the process of getting Californians vaccinated against COVID-19.
The governor says the state has received 1.29 million doses, with another 611,000 on the way. But so far, only 454,000 doses have been administered in California. Part of his solution is to allow vaccinations to be given by more than doctors and clinic workers.
“We are already working this last number of days to increase the number of distribution sites and more importantly to accelerate the efforts of who can distribute the vaccine,” Newsom said during a press conference Monday. “Dental administration — so dentists administering the vaccine — pharmacy techs, National Guard, more of our National Guard deployed to begin the distribution and administration.”
Newsom says another $300 million will be put toward public awareness of the vaccine and where to get it. He’ll release details of that on Friday.
California’s COVID-19 death toll topped 26,500 this weekend, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Since the start of the pandemic, the state’s confirmed cases have neared 2.4 million. Hospitals in the state are treating more than 22,000 COVID-19 patients, including nearly 4,700 in ICUs, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Authorities in California have warned of a potential huge surge on the horizon due to travel and gatherings for the December holidays and New Year’s.
All 67 of the 2021 men’s March Madness games will be played in a bubble in Indiana in an effort to stage the college basketball tournament after last year’s was canceled due to the pandemic, NPR reports.
Some of last year’s 2020 March Madness games were originally set to take place at the Golden 1 Center in downtown Sacramento before being canceled due to the virus. Golden 1 Center last hosted March Madness in 2017, which had a $4 million economic impact on the city.
The NCAA says it’s still determining whether fans can attend the games. The organization also announced plans to hold the women’s tournament in March, with Final Four games in San Antonio, Texas. It said it was in talks to hold the whole women’s tournament in that same region to reduce team travel.
One employee is dead and dozens of workers are infected with COVID-19 at the Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center after an employee appeared at the hospital wearing an inflatable holiday costume on Christmas Day, the Associated Press reports.
Since Dec. 27, 44 staff members in the emergency department have tested positive for the virus, according to Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center Senior Vice President and Area Manager Irene Chavez.
Inflatable costumes like the one used by the employee usually rely on battery-operated fans to suck in air to keep its shape, which could have spread COVID-19-infected droplets in the air. Investigators are looking into the functioning of the fan.
California now has strict new rules meant to protect workers from contracting COVID-19 on the job under AB 685, a new state law which took effect Jan. 1.
If you can’t work remotely and have spent any time at work the past couple months, you may have received an email from HR telling you that a colleague tested positive for the coronavirus, or was exposed to someone with it.
Starting this year, employers will have to do that. The new law requires written notification of potential exposures in the workplace.
Labor attorney Caroline Donelan says employers have an ethical duty to keep their workers safe, and many have already been doing this.
“These processes are probably already in place for most employers. But now in addition to this ethical duty, they now have a legal duty to do,” Donelan said.
The law also requires companies to report outbreaks — defined as three or more cases at a jobsite — to their local public health department.
Donelan says workers who don’t feel they’re getting those protections have a few options. She says it’s a good idea to start by speaking with your employer first. But if that doesn’t change anything, head to Cal/OSHA’s website.
“They have a hotline to call if employees have questions on things like paid sick leave, retaliation protections,” Donelan said. “And if they feel like they’ve gotten to the point where they want to file a complaint, that can be done completely online as well.”
The last thing AB 685 does is give Cal/OSHA the authority to shut down work sites that aren’t following these new coronavirus rules. But Donelan says the agency is already overwhelmed, and how much it actually uses that power remains to be seen.
Learn more about new California laws for 2021 in our interactive guide here.
The mayor of Los Angeles says the pandemic is getting worse as the coronavirus spreads rapidly within households and Californians let their guard down, according to the Associated Press.
Mayor Eric Garcetti says LA County is recording a new COVID-19 case every six seconds. Garcetti said on the CBS program “Face the Nation” on Sunday that he’s concerned news of a vaccine rollout “has made everybody so hopeful” that they wrongly feel they can relax their behavior. He said they must stay vigilant.
California hospitals stretched to their limits will get help from the state’s Fire and Rescue Mutual Aid System, which is usually used in response to wildfires, floods and other natural disasters.
Sunday, January 3
Stay-at-home orders for the Sacramento region will be extended, state officials announced Saturday, as intensive care unit capacity is projected to remain low.
The region fell under the state’s regional stay-at-home order Dec. 10, after ICU capacity dropped below the state’s 15% threshold to remain open. Under the orders, businesses such as barbershops and nail salons must close, while retail stores can stay open at 20% capacity and restaurants are limited to takeout-only.
Regions must stay under the orders for at least three weeks, but can come off once projections show ICU capacity rising above 15% four weeks in the future. The Greater Sacramento region would have been able to leave the order as soon as Jan. 1. But on Saturday, the state reported that the region’s four-week ICU capacity projections do not meet the criteria to exit the order.
The Southern California and San Joaquin Valley regions also remain under the order. The Bay Area will remain under the order until at least Jan. 8 when it has a chance to exit based on ICU projections.
10:23 a.m.: U.S. COVID-19 death toll tops 350,000
More than 350,000 people in the United States have been killed by the coronavirus, NPR reports.
The devastating milestone is according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.
A new variant of the virus continues to spread across dozens of countries, including the U.S., where it has been found so far in California, Colorado and Florida.
The U.S. could see a particularly deadly January, after a record number of infections in December.
President-elect Joe Biden said this week that “the next few weeks and months are going to be very tough, a very tough period for our nation — maybe the toughest during this entire pandemic.”
California’s governor has appointed Rita L. Saenz to oversee the state’s unemployment benefits department, which has been overwhelmed by claims during the coronavirus pandemic and also has paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in phony claims.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the appointment Wednesday of Saenz, a former director of the state Department of Social Services.
She replaces Sharon Hilliard, who was appointed by Newsom in February but retires this week.
The department has been struggling to deal with a huge backlog of unemployment claims because of the COVID-19 outbreak that shut most nonessential businesses and cost millions their jobs.
Saturday, January 2
A pharmacist from Milwaukee was arrested Thursday on suspicion of intentionally removing hundreds of coronavirus vaccines from refrigeration, leading to their destruction, according to NPR.
Police officials from Grafton, Wisconsin, said in a statement the pharmacist, who has been fired from the Advocate Aurora Health hospital system, was arrested on recommended charges of first-degree recklessly endangering safety, adulterating a prescription drug and criminal damage to property.
Health care workers were forced to throw out about 570 doses of the Moderna vaccine that had been removed from required refrigeration. However, 57 patients were given the medicine that had been left out. Bahr said those vaccines were rendered potentially less effective or altogether ineffective. The patients were notified and are not at any risk of adverse health effects, he said.
Officials said that in a written statement to Aurora Health officials, the pharmacist responsible admitted “to intentionally removing the vaccine knowing that if not properly stored the vaccine would be ineffective.”
More than 20 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus have been recorded in the United States, NPR reports.
The country reached the grim milestone on Friday, the first day of 2021, according to numbers from Johns Hopkins University.
With 10 million cases recorded Nov. 9, the U.S. more than doubled the number of infections in less than two months. It accounts for nearly a quarter of all cases in the world and a fifth of all deaths.
California leads the U.S. in cases, with a new single-day record in deaths recorded on Friday.
California started the new year by reporting a record 585 coronavirus deaths in a single day.
The state Department of Public Health said Friday there were more than 47,000 new confirmed cases reported, bringing the total to more than 2.29 million.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office says California will begin collaborating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to evaluate and upgrade outdated oxygen delivery systems at six Los Angeles area hospitals.
California this week became the third state to exceed 25,000 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
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