Find an updated count of COVID-19 cases in California and by county on our tracker here.
Wednesday, June 16
California’s grand reopening after 15 months of coronavirus restrictions has been met with exuberance, but also caution, according to the Associated Press.
On Tuesday, the state ended its color-coded restriction system and allowed restaurants, gyms and other businesses to lift capacity limits and distancing rules. While many businesses are ending their mask requirements for fully vaccinated patrons, some are still planning to keep masks and plastic panels for at least a bit longer.
Gov. Gavin Newsom called the day a milestone and urged residents to “give people hugs.” However, there are still millions of unvaccinated residents, and COVID-19 is not yet eradicated.
Do you have questions about what guidelines and rules changed in the state yesterday? CapRadio has a breakdown of what’s changed and what hasn’t.
A small study offers a hint that an extra dose of COVID-19 vaccines just might give some organ transplant recipients a needed boost in protection, according to the Associated Press.
The vaccines offer strong protection to most people, but it’s not clear how well they work in transplant recipients and other people with weak immune systems.
Researchers tested 30 transplant patients who, on their own, sought a third dose. It didn’t help everybody — but a third of those who appeared to have no protection after two shots developed virus-fighting antibodies with the extra dose.
The research was published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
While some employees at Houston Methodist Hospital are steadfast in their belief that their employer shouldn’t require them to get the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s a losing legal argument, according to the Associated Press.
A federal judge bluntly ruled over the weekend that if the hospital’s employees don’t want to get vaccinated, they can get a job elsewhere.
Legal experts say such vaccine requirements, particularly in a public health crisis, will probably continue to be upheld in court as long as employers provide reasonable exemptions, including for medical conditions or religious objections.
Other hospital systems around the country, including Washington D.C., Indiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York, have tried to fight back but have also faced pushback.
The ruling in the closely watched legal case over how far health care institutions can go to protect patients and others against the coronavirus is believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S.. Still, it probably won’t be the end of the debate.
The Houston Methodist employees likened their situation to medical experiments performed on unwilling victims in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. The judge called that comparison “reprehensible” and said claims made in the lawsuit that the vaccines are experimental and dangerous are false.
Houston Methodist’s decision in April made it the first major U.S. health care system to require COVID-19 shots for workers. Many hospitals around the country, including Houston Methodist, already require other types of vaccines, including for the flu.
Tuesday, June 15
Gov. Gavin Newsom marked what he called California’s “full reopening” at Universal Studios Hollywood, backed by a busy entrance to the theme park and costumed movie characters including Transformers’ Optimus Prime, Trolls, and the yellow minions from “Despicable Me.”
“California is open again,” he said as music played and confetti burst from on-stage cannons. “California has turned the page. Let us all celebrate this remarkable milestone.”
Starting Tuesday, most businesses can welcome customers back at full capacity and fully vaccinated individuals can remove their masks in most public settings
The governor — who will face a recall election later this year — also used the backdrop to hold the state’s big-money vaccine drawing.
Ten vaccinated Californians from Sacramento, Stanislaus, Los Angeles, Marin, Ventura, Santa Barbara and Riverside counties will get $1.5 million each.
Republicans hoping to replace the governor in a recall election criticized California’s long standing pandemic restrictions, which they say have hurt businesses.
“California’s reopening is too little, too late,” GOP candidate John Cox said in a statement. “The state is reopening weeks after other states, devastating Californians. Many small businesses will never reopen, millions are still unemployed, many students lost an entire year of school.”
Newsom acknowledged the pandemic isn’t over, though he said with more than half of eligible Californians now fully vaccinated, he doesn’t foresee any reason to reimpose restrictions.
“We’re monitoring things in real time,” he said. “But at this moment, we’re confident on the basis of the vaccination rates that we’ve seen.”
As California reopens today, the state has yet one more incentive for unvaccinated people to get their COVID-19 vaccinations — “dream vacations.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom made the offer on Monday after awarding $15 million in cash prizes to residents entered in the “Vax For The Win” campaign.
The effort is also intended to jump-start California’s travel and tourism industry. CEO and President of Visit California Caroline Beteta thinks this idea could get travel back on residents’ minds.
“In order for us to shorten the recovery curve and get this economy back on track, and create all these fabulous jobs in California, we also are trying to encourage Californians to choose California as a destination of choice,” Beteta said.
She says California tourism has been in virtual hibernation for more than a year because of stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions.
“Just in the last year, $1 billion of California tourism spending went to Mexico and over $10 billion went to western states and beyond. So by just people simply choosing California, they’re helping out their everyday fellow neighbors,” she said.
During the height of the pandemic, California lost nearly half the 1.2 million jobs in its hospitality and tourism industries. As a result, Gov. Newsom is proposing $95 million to help the state’s tourism economy.
While vaccinated Californians are allowed to go maskless, airports have their own rule — keep your mask on if you’re traveling through an airport or flying.
“As far as the airport is concerned, unfortunately, nothing is really going to change for us on the 15th,” said Scott Johnston, a Public Information Officer with Sacramento International Airport.
Since the Transportation Security Administration is a federal body, they can enact masking regulations that may differ from state rules. TSA can also fine someone $250 for a first maskless offense and $1,500 for repeat offenses.
“Masks are still required here on airport property,” Johnston said. “The airlines are still requiring [them]. To get through TSA, you also have to have a mask. Basically, when you enter airport property, you’re required to wear a mask.”
New COVID-19 cases are declining across most of the country, even in some states with vaccine-hesitant populations. But almost all states bucking that trend have lower-than-average vaccination rates, according to the Associated Press.
Case totals nationally have declined in a week from a seven-day average of nearly 21,000 on May 29 to around 14,000 on Saturday. Experts said some states are seeing increased immunity because there were high rates of natural spread of the disease.
However, Dr. Leana Wen, a public health professor at George Washington University, is concerned that the natural immunity of those who have been exposed to the coronavirus may soon wane.
“Just because we’re lucky in June doesn’t mean we’ll continue to be lucky come the late fall and winter,” said Wen. “We could well have variants here that are more transmissible, more virulent, and those who do not have immunity or have waning immunity could be susceptible once again.”
The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 has topped 600,000, even as the vaccination drive has slashed daily cases and deaths to the point that it’s allowed the country to reemerge from the gloom, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The Associated Press reports that the number of lives lost is greater than the total population of Baltimore or Milwaukee and that it’s about equal to the number of Americans who died from cancer in 2019.
The milestone came the same day that California lifted most of its remaining restrictions and ushered in what’s been billed as its “Grand Opening” just in time for summer. Gone are state rules on social distancing and limits on capacity at restaurants, bars, supermarkets, gyms, stadiums, and other places. Even Disneyland is throwing open its gates to all tourists after allowing just California residents.
The most recent deaths are seen in some ways as especially tragic now that the vaccine has become available practically for the asking.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50% of Americans have had at least one dose of vaccine, while over 40% are fully vaccinated.
But demand for shots in the U.S. has dropped off dramatically, leaving many places with a surplus of doses and casting doubt on whether the country will meet Biden’s target of having 70% of American adults at least partially vaccinated by July 4. The figure stands at just under 65%.
President Joe Biden wants to imbue Independence Day with a new meaning this year by encouraging nationwide celebrations to mark the country’s effective return to normalcy after 16 months of coronavirus pandemic disruption.
According to the Associated Press, the White House is expressing growing certainty that July Fourth will serve as a breakthrough moment in the nation’s recovery.
The White House says the National Mall in Washington will host the traditional fireworks ceremony. It’s encouraging other communities to hold festivities as well. Tuesday’s announcement comes even as the U.S. is set to cross the grim milestone of 600,000 deaths from the virus.
A new analysis of blood samples from 24,000 Americans taken early last year is the latest and most extensive study to suggest that the new coronavirus popped up in the U.S. in December 2019 — weeks before cases were first recognized by health officials.
According to the Associated Press, the analysis is not definitive, and some experts remain skeptical.
Still, federal health officials are increasingly accepting a timeline in which small numbers of COVID-19 infections may have occurred in the U.S. before the world ever became aware of a dangerous new virus erupting in China.
The study was published Tuesday online by the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
Monday, June 14
Governor Gavin Newsom says he will sign an executive order ending the question of whether vaccinated workers will have to wear masks.
“If they adopt the guidelines they published Friday, the answer is no and we’ll codify that with an executive order to make that clear on the 17th,” he said.
A spokesperson for Newsom’s office says the Cal/OSHA draft order represents the latest science and guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control. Without the governor’s executive order, it would be 10 days before it could take effect.
While California is just a day away from reopening its economy, business owners who have struggled in the past year are still facing an uncertain future, according to the Associated Press.
Merchants and restaurateurs on Los Angeles’ oldest street say they’re hopeful that the reopening will bring a recovery, but they’re hurting.
Martha Medina, who owns the largest shop on Olvera Street, says she doesn’t expect to return to normal but to a “semi-normal” way of life. Medina’s shop selling Mexican folk art and clothing has cut back to being open five days instead of daily. The state is due to lift restrictions Tuesday after tamping down the virus.
The airline industry’s recovery from the pandemic passed a milestone as more than 2 million people streamed through U.S. airport security checkpoints on Friday for the first time since early March 2020.
According to the Associated Press, the Transportation Security Administration Announced Saturday that 2.03 million travelers were screened at airport security checkpoints on Friday.
Airline bookings have been picking up since around February, as more Americans were vaccinated against COVID-19 and — at least within the U.S. — travel restrictions such as mandatory quarantines began to ease.
The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 is approaching 600,000 with the virus taking advantage of inequalities across the county, according to the Associated Press.
Government health officials say Native Americans, Latinos, and Black people are two to three times more likely than white people to die of COVID-19. An Associated Press analysis finds that Latinos are dying at much younger ages than other groups.
The Watsonville family of Jerry Ramos, a Mexican American restaurant worker, watched as he succumbed to COVID-19 at the age of 32. As he lay dying, he lamented about his 3-year-old daughter: “I have to be here to watch my princess grow up.”
Ramos didn’t live to see it. He died on Feb. 15, becoming one of the nearly 600,000 Americans who perished due to the virus. He is also another tragic example of the outbreak’s strikingly uneven and ever-shifting toll on the nation’s underserved racial and ethnic groups.
In the first wave of fatalities, in April 2020, Black people were hit the hardest, dying at rates higher than those of other ethnic or racial groups. The virus ran through the urban Northeast and hit heavily African American cities like Detroit and New Orleans.
Last summer, during a second surge, Hispanic people were hit the hardest, suffering an outsize share of deaths, driven by infections in Texas and Florida. By winter, during the third and most lethal stage, the virus had gripped the entire nation, and racial gaps in weekly death rates had narrowed so much that white people were the worst off, followed closely by Hispanic people.
Now, even as the outbreak ebbs and more people get vaccinated, a racial gap appears to be emerging again, with Black Americans dying at higher rates than other groups.
Sunday, June 13
When California reopens on June 15, masks will still be required on public transportation, transportation hubs, indoors in K-12 schools and youth settings, healthcare settings, correctional facilities, detention centers and shelters.
Masks will also still be required for unvaccinated people in indoor public settings and businesses.
And all workers will also continue to need to wear masks when working indoors or working outdoors when they are less than six feet from another person, and when required by the CDPH or their local health department.
Saturday, June 12
One of the Sacramento region’s premier music and arts venues is getting ready to welcome audiences back after closing because of COVID restrictions. The Mondavi Center in Davis will reopen its doors in mid-October.
Ticket sales for the 2021-22 season began this week. Don Roth, the Mondavi’s executive director, says this past Monday was their best first-day of ticket sales in about four years.
“Clearly people are ready to be back and we’re ready to be back,” he said. “It’ll be 19 months by the time we open, since the last time we put on a show.”
He says they’ve been busy getting the venue ready to reopen.
“Fortunately we have a fantastic filtration system that doesn’t recycle the air, you’re always getting fresh air,” he said. “And we had just put in this amazing Meyer sound system for amplified concerts and then we shut down, so it’ll be brand new when we open.”
Some of the artists featured in the upcoming season include Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Ballet Folklórico de México, and jazz singer Veronica Swift.
Friday, June 11
California Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted certain executive actions Friday tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they won’t go into effect until the economy reopens June 15.
Newsom is ending the executive actions that imposed a stay-at-home order and the colored tier system for counties. That means no more purple, red, or orange distinctions, reopening the economies in all counties.
The governor is also lifting the guidance that discouraged non-essential travel. Masks will no longer be needed in most settings. CDC guidance will still require them on planes and public transportation.
Newsom’s emergency authority, however, will remain in effect, which gives him expanded powers as governor. Republican lawmakers have criticized the decision.
Maybe it was because Sacramento Kings mascot Slamson brought luck when he pulled the winning numbers. Or perhaps it was just regular old serendipity. Either way, one Sacramento County resident is going to become $50,000 richer after their randomized number was chosen in the second round of California’s vaccine lottery.
With Gov. Gavin Newsom playing game show host yet again, the state pulled another 15 numbers on Friday of people who won $50,000 because they were vaccinated against COVID-19.
The winners came from Los Angeles, Santa Clara, Fresno, Alameda, San Francisco, San Mateo, Kern, San Diego, Riverside, Orange and Monterey counties. The pool included 22 million vaccinated California residents.
Another person from Sacramento County also won $50,000 today after the state failed to connect with one of the 15 winners from the previous drawing.
Officials have said they will try to reach the winners through multiple methods of communications, including email, text and phone calls.
The state will select 10 grand prize winners next Tuesday, who will each receive $1.5 million. California residents who get vaccinated before June 15 are automatically entered. Winners can choose to remain anonymous and still get their prize money.
Gov. Gavin Newsom says he’s confident his workplace regulators will soon fall in line with California’s plan to drop virtually all masking requirements for people vaccinated against the coronavirus.
According to the Associated Press, Cal/OSHA is set to consider revising its conflicting rules Thursday, two days after the state eases its pandemic restrictions. Newsom said on Friday that he expects to make sure the worksite regulations take effect along with planned reopening.
Businesses have been baffled by the shifting rules over who needs to wear masks and where once the nation’s largest state fully reopens from the pandemic.
California public health departments are asking for an unprecedented infusion of cash following the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Associated Press.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget proposal didn’t include ongoing annual funding for public health departments, however. Instead, the state Legislature included more than $400 million of annual funding for public health in its proposal.
It’s just one of several areas Newsom and lawmakers must reconcile before approving a spending plan by June 30. Some public health departments said they were not prepared for the pandemic, and they’re asking for money to hire more people to have a broader coordinated response to the next public health crisis.
The U.S. is confronted with an ever-growing surplus of COVID-19 vaccines, looming expiration dates and stubbornly lagging demand at a time when the developing world is clamoring for doses to stem a rise in infections.
According to the Associated Press, million-dollar prizes, free beer and marijuana, raffled-off hunting rifles and countless other giveaways around the country have failed to significantly move the need on vaccine hesitancy, raising the specter of new outbreaks.
The stockpiles are becoming more daunting each week, with states halting new orders and giving millions of doses back to the federal government. The nation seems likely to fall short of President Joe Biden’s goal of dispensing at least one shot to 70% of the nation’s adults by July 4.
U.S. regulators are allowing the release of about 10 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine from a troubled Baltimore factor, according to the Associated Press.
But many other doses that originated there can’t be used and must be thrown out. The Food and Drug Administration announced that it had determined that two batches from the plant could be released. The plant, owned by Emergent BioSolutions, has been shuttered for weeks.
The agency wouldn’t specify why those batches can’t be used, but a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press that it was due to possible contamination. The person wasn’t authorized to release details about the decision and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The FDA’s decision means that the two batches from the Bayview factory can be used in the U.S. or exported to other countries. These are also the first J&J vaccines from Bayview approved for use.
The agency said the vaccines are “critically needed,” given the current public health emergency. It also said it made the decision after reviewing records and the results of the manufacturer’s quality testing.
Thursday, June 10
It will cost California counties an estimated $215 million to stage an expected recall election that could oust Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom from office less than a year before the 2022 elections.
According to the Associated Press, the preliminary projection from the state Finance Department comes about a month after a coalition of county officials urged the Legislature to provide funding to cover the recall election costs — warning that they could strain local budgets already weakened by the coronavirus pandemic.
The figures were provided by counties that estimated what it would cost for everything from printing ballots to providing face masks and gloves for election workers. An election date has not been set.
A one-time top member of the notorious Aryan Brotherhood who claimed to have turned his life around after 45 years in prison is now charged with defrauding Northern Californians out of nearly $400,000 in unemployment benefits, according to the Associated Press.
The Sacramento Bee says Michael Thompson was arrested Monday in Lake County. He and a co-defendant are accused of bilking at least 16 people last year as the state Employment Development Department was distributing money to those whose jobs were affected by business closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prosecutors said that Thompson and his co-conspirator Eric Hutchins would convince the victims to provide information, allowing them to apply for unemployment money from the state in their names. They then inflated the victims’ income to receive the maximum amount.
They defrauded mainly people who are homeless or transient people living off Social Security or disability payments by pretending to counsel them. California has said EDD payouts to fraudsters have cost the state about $11 billion.
California’s workplace regulators have withdrawn a controversial mask regulation, according to the Associated Press.
Their second such reversal in a week gives them time to consider a rule that more closely aligns with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s promise that the state will fully reopen from the pandemic on Tuesday. But some business leaders on Wednesday kept up their pressure on Newsom to override the board.
The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board’s rule would have allowed workers to forego masks only if every employee in a room is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. That contrasts with the state’s broader plan to do away with virtually all masking requirements for vaccinated people.
Temporary side effects after COVID-19 vaccines are normal and a sign your immune system is revving up, according to the Associated Press.
Your immune system has two main parts, and the first kicks in as soon as the body detects a foreign intruder by promoting the inflammation that can cause chills, fatigue, and other common side effects.
But since everyone reacts differently, it doesn’t mean the shot didn’t work if you don’t feel anything within a day or two. The rapid-response step of your immune system tends to wane with age, one reason younger people report side effects more often than older adults. Also, some vaccines simply elicit more reactions than others.
“The day after getting these vaccines, I wouldn’t plan anything that was strenuous physical activity,” said Dr. Peter Marks, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine chief, who experienced fatigue after his first dose.
The shots also set in motion the other part of your immune system, which will provide the real protection from the virus by producing antibodies.
People also occasionally have serious allergic reactions. That’s why you’re asked to stick around for about 15 minutes after getting any type of COVID-19 vaccine — to ensure any reaction can be promptly treated.
Millions of Americans are struggling through life with few people they can trust for personal and professional help. This disconnect raises a barrier to recovery from the coronavirus pandemic’s social, emotional, and economic fallout.
That’s according to a poll from The Impact Genome Project and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
The survey finds 18% of U.S. adults, or about 46 million people, say they have just one person or nobody they can trust for help in their personal lives, such as emergency child care needs or a ride to the airport. And 28% say they have just one person or nobody they can trust to help draft a resume, connect to an employer or navigate workplace challenges.
The isolation is more acute among Black and Hispanic Americans. Thirty-eight percent of Black adults and 35% of Hispanic adults said they had only one or no trusted person to help navigate their work lives, compared with 26% of white adults. In their personal lives, 30% of Hispanic adults and 25% of Black adults said they have one or no trusted people, while 14% of white adults said the same.
Americans were more likely to report a decline than an increase in the number of people they could trust over the past year. Just 6% of Americans said their network of trusted people grew, compared with 16% who reported that it shrank.
While most Americans said the number of people they could trust stayed the same, nearly 3 in 10 said they asked for less support from family and friends because of COVID-19.
Wednesday, June 9
California is reopening next Tuesday, and we finally have some additional clarity on what that means for mask use.
After a full month of dueling guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state’s health department, California will align with the CDC on June 15.
“Fully vaccinated people can resume everyday activities without wearing a mask except in a few limited settings that are required by federal and now state rules,” said Chief Health Officer Doctor Mark Ghaly. “Individuals who are not fully vaccinated must continue to wear masks in indoor public settings.”
The “limited settings” requiring masks regardless of vaccination status include healthcare and correctional facilities, public transportation, homeless and emergency shelters, cooling centers and indoors at schools.
Around 15% of California’s population is children under 12, who are not currently eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Meanwhile, workplace guidance will continue to be provided by Cal/OSHA. The agency is meeting to discuss those rules Wednesday night.
Prosecutors say a Nevada man has been charged with stealing more than 500 blank vaccine cards from a COVID-19 vaccination center in Los Angeles County.
According to the Associated Press, the 45-year-old Las Vegas resident was a contract worker at the Pomona Fairplex site when the theft occurred in April. He now faces one felony count of grand theft, and it’s not immediately known if the Las Vegas resident has an attorney.
“Selling fraudulent and stolen vaccine cards is illegal, immoral and puts the public at risk of exposure to a deadly virus,” Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement.
Prosecutors estimate the stolen cards may be worth about $15 per card if illegally sold. The defendant is scheduled to be arraigned on Aug. 25.
3:27 p.m.: The US is investigating COVID-19 origins
Once dismissed by most public health experts and government officials, the hypothesis that COVID-19 leaked from a Chinese lab is now receiving scrutiny under a new U.S. investigation.
According to the Associated Press, experts say a 90-day review ordered by President Joe Biden will push American intelligence agencies to collect more information and review what they already have.
Former State Department officials under former President Donald Trump have publically pushed for the investigation.
However, many scientists, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, still say they believe the virus most likely occurred in nature and jumped from animals to humans.
Health officials have warned since early on in the pandemic that obesity and related conditions such as diabetes were risk factors for severe COVID-19, according to the Associated Press.
It was another reminder of the health issues that often come with obesity and how difficult sustained weight loss can be. Even faced with such risks, it’s not clear how many people were motivated to get healthier during the pandemic.
Some benefited from having greater control over what they ate and more time to exercise, while others moved less and ate more. The changes underscore how a person’s environment can affect their health and weight, experts say.
Three Republican lawmakers are asking Gov. Gavin Newsom to explain his decision to keep a COVID-19 emergency declaration in place past June 15. That’s the date many of California’s pandemic restrictions are set to end, despite Newsom saying the state of emergency would continue.
Among the GOP lawmakers wanting answers is Assemblymember Kevin Kiley of Rocklin. Kiley has previously sued the governor for overstepping executive authorities during the pandemic.
Newsom won an appeal, but Kiley said he would take it to the California Supreme Court later this month.
“‘State of emergency’ is a legal term that says there is A, conditions of extreme peril, and B, that these conditions are of such a magnitude that they’re beyond the ability of any local jurisdiction to control,” Kiley said.
California has the second-lowest coronavirus transmission rate in the nation, according to the CDC.
The U.S. will buy 500 million more doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to share through the COVAX alliance for donation to 92 lower-income countries and the African Union over the next year.
According to the Associated Press, President Joe Biden was set to make the announcement Thursday in a speech before the start of the Group of Seven summit. The news was confirmed to the Associated Press by a person familiar with the matter, who spoke on a condition of anonymity ahead of the president’s announcement.
The person says 200 million doses would be shared this year, with the balance to be donated in the first half of 2022.
The U.S. saw tragically remarkable increases in the death rates for heart disease, diabetes and other common killers last year, according to the Associated Press.
Experts believe the main reason may be that many people who suffered dangerous symptoms made the lethal mistake of staying away from the hospital for fear of catching the coronavirus.
The death rates — posted online this week by federal health authorities — add to the growing body of evidence that the number of lives lost directly or indirectly to the coronavirus in the U.S. is far greater than the officially reported COVID-19 death toll of nearly 600,000 in 2020-21.
For months now, researchers have known that 2020 was the deadliest year in U.S. history, primarily because of COVID-19. But the data released this week showed the biggest increases in the death rates for heart disease and diabetes in at least 20 years.
“I would probably use the word ‘alarming,’” said Dr. Tannaz Moin, a diabetes expert at UCLA, said of the trends.
Tuesday, June 8
While California may be set to reopen in a week, many of the state’s low-income essential workers feel concerned about their safety.
Even though restaurants, grocery stores and other essential low-wage workers have worked through the pandemic, regardless of the state’s reopening status, many are now concerned about the confusing reopening guidelines.
Across the state, broad reopening guidelines are causing anxiety — especially as only about half of the state’s population is currently vaccinated.
United Food and Commercial Workers Union in Northern California President Jacques Loveall says that many grocery store workers his organization represents are concerned about the shifting mask mandates.
“Our members are seeing hundreds of people a day where most people don’t see anywhere near that number of people,” Loveall said. “So the possibility for exposure are still there, so they are concerned and I think legitimately concerned.”
Loveall says about 70% of grocery store workers in the union have been vaccinated. While shoppers can go maskless in most cases after June 15, many employees will still have to cover their faces while at work.
For months, President Joe Biden has laid out goal after goal for taming the coronavirus pandemic and then exceeded his own benchmarks.
Now, according to the Associated Press, the U.S. is on pace to fall short of Biden’s aim to have 70% of Americans at least partially vaccinated by July 4. As of June 7, only 51.6% of the nation’s population had received at least one vaccine dose. The White House has launched a month-long blitz to combat vaccine hesitancy and a lack of urgency to get shots, particularly in the South and Midwest.
However, it’s increasingly likely that the population will still miss the president’s vaccination target. The administration insists that even if the goal isn’t reached, it will have little effect on the overall U.S.
Prosecutors say what started as a gun bust has led investigators to uncover $600,000 in pandemic-related fraud from California’s unemployment agency, according to the Associated Press.
Adrian Sykes was arrested on Monday for the second time in the case, this time in Las Vegas. He was initially arrested in February after Sacramento County prosecutors say a traffic stop and search of his house found six guns and six unemployment agency debit cards.
Prosecutors allege Sykes and his girlfriend filed 35 fraudulent claims and obtained more than $600,000 using personal identifying information from victims nationwide. Sacramento County prosecutors say they don’t know if either has an attorney.
Pfizer says it’s expanding testing of its COVID-19 vaccine in children younger than 12, according to the Associated Press.
After a first-step study in a small number of children 5- to 11-year-old to test different doses, Pfizer is ready to enroll about 4,500 young volunteers at more than 90 sites in the U.S., Finland, Poland, and Spain.
The vaccine made by American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech is already authorized for emergency use in anyone 12 and older in the U.S. and the European Union.
Enrollment of 5- to 11-year-olds began this week. Those youngsters will receive two vaccine doses of 10 micrograms each — a third of the teen and adult dose — or dummy shots. Enrollment of children as young as 6 months will start in a few weeks using an even lower dose, 3 micrograms per shot.
An Associated Press analysis shows that thousands of families’ reunifications have been delayed nationwide as the pandemic snarls the foster care system.
Courts have delayed cases, gone virtual or temporarily shut down, leading to a backlog. Services such as visitation, therapy and drug testing that parents need to get their kids back also have been limited.
The AP found at least 8,700 fewer reunifications during the first nine months of the pandemic, compared with the same period the year before. Adoptions slowed to a trickle. Overall, tens of thousands fewer children left foster care compared with 2019.
Monday, June 7
California Gov. Gavin Newsom appears disinclined to insert himself into the regulatory process for workplaces.
According to the Associated Press, Newsom spoke on Friday after Cal/OSHA, the state safety board, upset business groups by approving new rules a day earlier. They require all workers to wear masks unless every employee around them is vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The rules run counter to Newsom’s plan to fully reopen California in less than two weeks and allow vaccinated people to skip face coverings in nearly all situations. Critics hadn’t decided if they will push Newsom to override the worksite rules adopted by Cal/OSHA.
Las Vegas is hosting its first big trade show since the start of the pandemic this week, according to the Associated Press.
The four-day World of Concrete trade show is set to begin Monday at the Las Vegas Convention Center, which recently completed a new $1 billion exhibition hall. Some are embracing it as a sign of a reopening state.
Observers like U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that people will be eying the trade show as a test run for resuming large conventions and meetings.
The World of Concrete typically has 60,000 masonry professionals in attendance. Dow says having even half of the attendance in 2019 would be a success.
U.S. health officials say people who are fully vaccinated can skip routine COVID-19 testing, with some exceptions, according to the Associated Press.
Because the approved vaccines are so effective at blocking COVID-19, vaccinated people face little risk of getting sick or spreading the virus. As a result, U.S. officials recently updated their guidance to recommend against routine screening in most cases, including workplace settings.
An exception is if you develop COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, cough and fatigue. Health care workers and people in prisons and homeless shelters should also continue to follow testing guidelines specific to those places.
How soon vaccines expire is a critical question as the Biden administration prepares to send tens of millions of unused COVID-19 doses abroad to help curb the pandemic.
According to the Associated Press, many drugs and vaccines can last for years if stored properly, but all can eventually lose their effectiveness, much like how food can degrade in a pantry. Like many perishable items, COVID-19 vaccines remain stable longer at lower temperatures.
In recent days, some state officials have said that some unused doses may expire by the end of the month, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that looming expiration dates were a factor as the administration works to get doses sent out as quickly as possible.
However, expiration dates for vaccines are determined based on data the manufacturer submits to regulators proving how long the shots stay at the right strength, said former Food and Drug Administration vaccine chief Norman Baylor.
It’s called a “potency assay,” and it can vary by vaccine. Some vaccines, such as tetanus shots, typically last two years if properly stored.
The vaccines authorized in the U.S., made by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, can last for up to about six months from the time of manufacture, depending on how they’re stored.
In the middle of last year, the number of people in U.S. jails was at its lowest point in more than two decades.
According to the Associated Press, a new report published by the Vera Institute of Justice collected population numbers from about half of the nation’s 3,300 jails to make national estimates. The report was then shared with The Marshall Project and the Associated Press.
The number of people incarcerated in county jails across the country declined by roughly one-quarter, or 185,000, as counties aggressively worked to release people held on low-level charges, dramatically reduced arrest rates and suspended court operations to halt the spread of COVID-19.
But in many places, the decrease didn’t last too long. From mid-2020 to March 2021, the number of people in jails waiting for trial or serving short sentences for minor offenses climbed back up again by more than 70,000, reaching nearly 650,000.
“Reducing the incarcerated population across the country is possible,” said Jacob Kang-Brown, a Vera Institute of Justice Senior Research Associate and author of the report. “We saw decreases in big cities, small cities, rural counties, but the increase we see is troubling.”
The pandemic underscored what reform advocates have been saying for years — cramped and filthy jails are the wrong place for most people who have been arrested. The pandemic forced a rapid departure from the status quo and became something of a proof of concept for alternatives to incarceration.
“The pandemic has given prosecutors the chance to implement practices that have been discussed and floated for years now,” said Alisa Heydari, a former Manhattan prosecutor who is deputy director for the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Sunday, June 6
A “protein subunit vaccine,” likely from the biotech company Novavax, could be available as soon as this summer. It works differentially from the current batch of vaccines and doesn’t require refrigeration.
It contains the spike protein itself (no need to make it) as well as an adjuvant that enhances the immune system’s response—making the vaccine even more protective.
The technology has been well understood. There are already vaccines made this way for hepatitis B and pertussis.
Saturday, June 5
Sacramento is seeing some of the country’s biggest construction job growth.
“Construction was deemed essential throughout the pandemic,” said Peter Tateishi, head of the Associated General Contractors of California. “It didn’t really slow down, it continued to push forward.”
A new study by the group finds the Sacramento area added nearly 6,000 new construction jobs from February to April. That puts Sacramento among the top five cities in the country for construction employment. A lot of those jobs are in office and commercial construction downtown.
“Throughout 2020 you also saw a number of people moving out of other areas of California, including the Bay Area, into the Sacramento market,” Tateishi said. “So we’ve seen a lot of investment into the residential side of construction.”
The report finds Sacramento’s overall construction employment is at nearly 76,000 jobs—the highest level since 2005.
Friday, June 4
For the first time in California history, the state’s population is going down.
Researchers from the Public Policy Institute of California say it’s a combination of a few factors:
- Fewer people are moving into the state.
- More people are moving away.
- Birth rates have dropped.
During the pandemic, birth rates did go down, but the PPIC thinks it may also be just part of a longer-term trend.
Women in their twenties are having fewer children, largely because they’ve been living with their parents for longer, due in part to high housing costs.
The PPIC’s new report found that between 2007 and 2020, birth rates in California fell faster than birth rates nationwide, which also fell.
The report’s authors say in the past, drips in the birth rate have been countered by people immigrating into the state, but that’s not the case anymore.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom took a turn as gameshow host as the state drew the first 15 winners of $50,000 prizes for getting vaccinated against the coronavirus.
According to the Associated Press, Newsom and two others drew the winners from a lottery machine on Friday. It’s the first in a series of drawings, culminating in 10 grand prizes of $1.5 million each on June 15. That’s the day when the state expects to drop almost all coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses and gatherings.
The state plans to award over $116 million in cash prizes and gift cards, all in an effort to get more Californians vaccinated.
The drawings are based on unique numeric identifiers that connect to the names of the winners. Each ball represents a $50,000 check that individuals can receive after they’ve gotten their second shot, but there are some stipulations.
The state will contact winners and give them 96 hours to claim their prizes. Friday’s winners came from Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Santa Clara, San Francisco, Alameda, San Luis Obispo and Mendocino counties.
Gov. Gavin Newsom says he will not lift the coronavirus state of emergency on June 15, according to the Associated Press.
But he still intends to lift most mask and other restrictions on that date. Newsom said Friday he will keep in place the emergency order that gives him broad authority to issue, alter or suspend state laws and regulations.
Newsom said he is not taking the summer months off from the threat posed by the coronavirus. Republicans in the state Senate have tried repeatedly to pass a concurrent resolution to end the state of emergency, but Democrats in the majority have blocked their efforts.
California employees will soon be able to skip masks in the workplace, but only if every employee in the room is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
According to the Associated Press, the revised rules adopted Thursday night by a sharply divided California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board are expected to go into effect June 15. That’s the same day the state more broadly loosens requirements in social settings to match recent federal recommendations.
Members made clear that the regulations are only temporary while they consider further easing pandemic rules. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office says he’s hopeful the board will follow the science and further amend its rules.
Some researchers believe COVID-19 has derailed the fight against HIV and set back a U.S. campaign to decimate the AIDS epidemic by 2030, according to the Associated Press.
Saturday marks the 40th anniversary of the first report that brought AIDS to the public. The battle against HIV — the virus that causes AIDS — had been going well until recently. Two years ago, U.S. officials set goals to all but eliminate new HIV cases in about a decade.
But now, experts believe the U.S. may see its first increase in infections in years. They blame less testing and prevention during the COVID-19 pandemic. Internationally, recent strides could also be undone for similar reasons.
U.S. employers added a modest 559,000 jobs in May, an improvement from April’s sluggish gain.
However, according to the Associated Press, there’s still evidence that many companies are struggling to find enough workers even as the economy rapidly recovers from the pandemic recession.
Last month’s job gain was about April’s revised total of 278,000. The unemployment rate fell to 5.8% from 6.1%. The rebound speed from the pandemic recession has caught employers off guard and touched off a scramble to hire.
The reopening of the economy, fueled by substantial federal aid and rising vaccinations, has released pent-up demand among consumers to dine out, travel, shop, attend public events, and visit friends and relatives.
Thursday, June 3
There’s one pandemic change that Californians are sure to toast: the to-go cocktail.
According to the Associated Press, Gov. Gavin Newsom says the state will allow restaurants to continue selling takeout alcohol and keep expanded outdoor dining through the end of the year.
Restaurants turned to takeout and outdoor seating during the last year as coronavirus restrictions limited indoor service. The state department of Alcoholic Beverage Control relaxed regulations to allow them to keep selling alcohol, which can be a big moneymaker.
The state is set to drop all capacity limits on businesses, indoor and outdoor, on June 15.
3:39 p.m.: Traffic deaths rose during pandemic
The government’s highway safety agency says U.S. traffic deaths rose 7% last year, according to the Associated Press.
That’s the most considerable increase in 13 years, even after people drove fewer miles due to the coronavirus pandemic. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration blamed the increase on drivers taking more risks on sparsely traveled roads by speeding, failing to wear seat belts, or driving while impaired with drugs or alcohol
On Thursday, the agency released preliminary numbers showing that 38,680 people died in traffic crashes last year. The increase came even though the number of miles traveled by vehicle fell 13% from 2019.
The California agency in charge of workplace health and safety will vote Thursday on whether to ease face masks and social distancing guidelines in certain workplaces.
The proposal drafted by Cal/OSHA’s Standards Board says employers who don’t work with the public can ease restrictions if they receive documentation that all employees have been vaccinated.
Stanford University infectious diseases expert Dr. Erin Mordacai thinks the proposal is a reasonable idea.
“We have pretty good evidence at this point that the vaccines do a really good job at protecting against infection, which means both that the vaccinated person is unlikely to get infected and get sick, but they’re also unlikely to infect and transmit to others,” Mordecai said.
The proposal also says public workplaces like restaurants will likely continue requiring California employees to mask up even after the state reopening on June 15.
This week, Sacramento County moved into the less-restrictive orange tier of the state’s reopening plan, and this means more people could be headed outdoors, ramping up structured-recreational opportunities.
Sacramento’s Youth, Parks, and Community Enrichment Director Mario Lara says the city is prepared to serve people that are ready to reengage with activities.
“So we’re planning a host of summer activities both indoors and outdoors at our community centers, as well as some outdoor summer camp activities,” Lara said. “And we’re anticipating that folks will want to be outdoors within our parks, neighborhood parks and community parks.”
While some activities were eliminated because of COVID-19, the open spaces offered by the city’s parks department remained a sanctuary for many during the pandemic.
10:08 a.m.: US will boost vaccine-sharing around the world
The White House says the U.S. will share more COVID-19 vaccines with the world, including directing 75% of excess doses through the UN-backed COVAX global program.
According to the Associated Press, the White House has previously stated its intent to share 80 million vaccine doses with the world by the end of June. The administration says 25% of doses will be kept in reserve for emergencies and for the U.S. to share directly with allies and partners.
The long-awaited vaccine-sharing plan comes as demand for shots in the U.S. has dropped significantly. More than 63% of U.S. adults have received at least one dose, and global inequities in supply have also become more glaring.
Wednesday, June 2
California’s embattled Employment Development Department is taking more heat after a San Francisco Chronicle report revealed that the Employment Development Department answered fewer callers every week of May than in March.
This news comes despite promises of new hires and better practices. California Rep. Josh Harder says it’s unacceptable.
“We’ve heard again and again from folks at EDD over the last few months, all the work that they’ve done to get new systems, to hire new people, and what we’ve seen today is — it’s not working,” Harder said.
He points out that part of the problem rests with the federal government, which has promised $2 billion in assistance to agencies like the EDD. However, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh has not yet committed to a timeline for releasing those funds.
The world’s leading COVID-19 vaccines may offer lasting protection that diminishes the need for frequent booster shots, according to the Associated Press.
Scientists are finding clues in how the body remembers viruses, but they say more research is needed, especially since viral mutations are still a wild card.
Pfizer and Moderna have fueled booster questions by estimating that people might need yearly shots, just like the flu vaccine.
The companies plan to have some candidates ready this fall, but companies won’t decide when boosters get used. That’s up to health authorities in each country. Some experts say boosters may be needed only every few years.
Will the Tokyo Olympics open despite rising opposition related to the pandemic? The answer is almost certainly “yes.”
According to the Associated Press, that “yes” is largely tied to billions of dollars at stake for the International Olympic Committee.
The Switzerland-based IOC controls the terms of the games in a contract with Japanese organizers, and only it has the right to cancel the games.
Japan has spent at least $15.4 billion to organize the Olympics and will want to save face and have the Tokyo Games open on July 23. Medical authorities in Japan have largely opposed the Olympics, but financial and political considerations have overshadowed concerns.
Sacramento and San Joaquin counties are finally moving to the orange tier of California’s color-coded reopening system, allowing some businesses to loosen restrictions just two weeks before the state fully reopens and removes most COVID-19 restrictions.
Sacramento has been in the red tier since March 16, while San Joaquin has been since April 6. Nevada and Solano counties are also moving down from red to orange. No counties are left in the most restrictive purple tier.
In the less-restrictive orange tier, restaurants and movie theaters can increase indoor capacity to 50%, and gyms rise to 25%. Bars can also reopen outdoors with modifications. There are also capacity restriction modifications for indoor and outdoor events if all attendees are vaccinated or have a recent negative COVID-19 test.
All of these changes will take effect immediately in Sacramento County, according to an updated public health order.
Free beer is the latest White House-backed incentive to persuade Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
According to the Associated Press, President Joe Biden is expected to announce a “month of action” on Wednesday to get more shots into arms before the July 4 holiday.
Biden is updating the nation on his plans to get 70% of adults at least partially vaccinated by Independence Day. That’s key to his goal of reopening the country by this summer. The latest hop-infused incentive to get vaccinated, provided by Anheuser-Busch, builds on others like cash giveaways, sports tickets and paid leave to keep up the pace of Americans getting shots.
Tuesday, June 1
Zoom is still booming, raising prospects that the video conferencing service will be able to sustain its pandemic-fueled momentum.
According to the Associated Press, the San Jose-headquartered corporation has seen some signs for optimism in its latest quarterly earnings report. Zoom’s stock had slumped recently as the easing pandemic lessens the need for virtual meetings, but the stock still rose 3% in extended trading after the quarterly numbers came out.
Both Zoom’s revenue and profit for the February-April quarter surpassed analyst projections. However, on the downside, Zoom added its lowest number of large-business subscribers since before the start of the pandemic.
Doctors and nurses are staffing mobile clinics throughout the U.S. to ensure people in tiny towns and rural areas can get vaccinated, according to the Associated Press.
In states such as Nevada, Arizona, Kentucky and others, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has dispatched the mobile units to places that lack pharmacies, clinics and other vaccination sites.
In Nevada, volunteer doctors and nurses have teamed up with the National Guard to deliver thousands of shots to communities that state officials say couldn’t offer vaccinations any other way.
In a town located on Fallon Paiute-Shoshone land and 60 miles east of Reno, the state has set up FEMA mobile vaccination units to ensure residents in 28 locations across the state can get inoculated.
This is just one of Nevada health officials’ many tactics to counter waning interest in vaccinations. A Las Vegas strip club has even set up a pop-up vaccination site.
However, state health officials acknowledge they’re unlikely to hit their initial goal of vaccinating 75% of the population believed necessary to reach herd immunity.
It’s sinking in that Japan’s scramble to catch up on a frustratingly slow vaccination drive less than two months before the Summer Olympics start may be too little, too late, according to the Associated Press.
Instead, an expert warns that the Olympics risks becoming an incubator for a “Tokyo variant,” as tens of thousands of athletes, officials, sponsors, and journalists descend on and potentially mix with a largely unvaccinated Japanese population.
With infections in Tokyo and other heavily populated areas at high levels and hospitals already under strain, experts are worried about the very little slack left in the system.
Even if the country succeeds in meeting its goal of fully vaccinating older adults by the end of July, much of the population would not be inoculated. Plus, some experts believe even that goal is overly optimistic.
12:25 p.m.: California travel to campgrounds, beaches, surge
Many Californians found themselves heading to campgrounds, beaches and restaurants over the latest holiday weekend.
According to the Associated Press, as the state prepares to shed some of its coronavirus rules, Southern California beaches have been busy with families barbecuing and children playing in the sand and surf.
Many business owners say they’ve been scrambling to hire workers to keep up with the customer demand since virus cases have fallen, and vaccinations have risen. The surge in travel and recreation comes as California prepares to relax social distancing and masking rules on June 15 if coronavirus cases remain low.
Newly reported infections in the state have fallen below 1,000 some days. The positivity rate has also been 1%.
It’s been five weeks since the Biden administration announced plans to share millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses with the world by the end of June, according to the Associated Press.
Nations around the globe are still waiting with growing impatience to learn where the vaccines will go. President Joe Biden must decide what share of doses goes where and how many of those shares should be reserved for U.S. partners.
So far, it looks like the administration will provide the bulk of the doses to COVAX, the U.N.-backed global vaccine sharing program. The administration is also considering reserving about a fourth of the doses for the U.S. to dispense directly to individual nations of its choice.
Nursing homes in the U.S. are still reporting scattered COVID-19 outbreaks and COVID-associated deaths, albeit at much smaller rates than during the height of the pandemic.
According to the Associated Press, due to the outbreaks and deaths, many facilities are following federal and state recommendations to pause visitors, causing disappointment and frustration among family members who hoped to visit their families again once fully vaccinated.
Most often, staff are the ones who get infected. Outbreaks have also been linked to new, unvaccinated nursing home residents.
Federal data show there were 472 nursing home deaths in the first two weeks of May, down from 10,675 in the first two weeks of January 2021.
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