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COVID-19 By The Numbers
Sunday, October 31
Hundreds of hotel, casino and restaurant workers rallied on the Las Vegas Strip as the Culinary union made a second monthly call to return more people to jobs idled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Culinary union said Thursday that more than one-third of its 60,000 members haven’t been rehired, despite a recovery by casinos and hotels from closures imposed in March 2020. Union President Ted Pappageorge says companies charging full rates should provide full service.
The message echoed calls made during a September 24 march on the Strip. Casinos statewide have been setting monthly winnings records, hotel room rates have rebounded and tourism officials report the number of visitors is approaching pre-pandemic levels.
Saturday, October 30
Prompted by lingering port backlogs, state and federal officials announced on Thursday a partnership to speed up work to modernize California's supply chain infrastructure.
John Porcari, the Biden administration's port envoy, says the administration is making loan money available to the state intended to kick-start improvement projects.
He says the administration and the state are also working on short-term solutions. These include expanding supply chain operations to 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and cutting bureaucratic red tape—making it easier for truck drivers to get commercial driver's licenses.
"The kind of projects that may not get as much attention but are really crucial for goods moment, both within the ports and importantly beyond the fence line of the ports,” Pocari said. “Things like: highway upgrades to improve truck travel times, grade separated crossings for class one railroads, land ports of entry to expand export and import capacity.”
Friday, October 29
With COVID-19 vaccines for younger children on the horizon, public health officials say they're seeing an opportunity to stem the transmission of COVID-19.
UC Davis Health Pediatric Infectious Disease Chief, Dr. Dean Blumberg, said the primary reason for children to be vaccinated is to ultimately protect them.
"But a secondary benefit of having children vaccinated is to decrease transmission," Blumberg said. "The vaccine in the 5 - 11-year-olds was 91% effective at preventing acute, symptomatic COVID infection."
Blumberg said if there's less infection, there's less transmission. He adds that this has been observed in other age groups that asymptomatic infection occurs less often among vaccinated people, and when it does happen, there's less transmission.
Witches, goblins, ghosts and ghouls can breathe a little easier this Halloween: Coronavirus cases in the U.S. are on the decline, and trick-or-treaters can feel safer when collecting candy.
As reported by the Associated Press, a new poll indicates Halloween participation is rebounding, but it’s still short of pre-pandemic levels.
Despite that, an industry trade group says people who are celebrating are driving record-level spooky spending this year.
Though the pandemic remains a concern, top health officials are largely giving outside activities like trick-or-treating the thumbs up. Experts advise people to keep hand sanitizer and masks handy and to continue steering clear of crowded, poorly ventilated spaces.
A new study found a cheap antidepressant reduced the need for hospitalization among high-risk adults with COVID-19, according to the Associated Press.
The research is part of a larger project hunting for existing drugs that could be repurposed to treat coronavirus.
Researchers tested the antidepressant because it’s known to reduce inflammation and looked promising in smaller studies. The pill called fluvoxamine is normally used for depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
It would cost about $4 for a course of COVID-19 treatment. The results of the study were published this week in the medical journal Lancet Global Health.
Thursday, October 28
As Sacramento County health officials continue to encourage residents to get their COVID-19 shots, they’re also making plans to administer the vaccine to younger children once it’s approved.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to greenlight the Pfizer vaccine for children between the ages of 5 and 11 in the near future. Children ages 12 to 17 can already take it.
The county expects to launch vaccine clinics for children around Nov. 8, pending federal approval.
County health staff say doses could be administered at schools, doctor’s offices or community clinic. They’re working with providers to prepare to dose children, because the handling and administration vary slightly from the adult vaccine.
Currently, 57.4% of county residents are fully immunized, and the county is running clinics where residents can get a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu shot at the same time. The county case rate has been fluctuating between 15 and 17 cases per 100,000 people, which is down from a 46 in August, which was the peak of this summer’s surge.
The county saw an uptick in hospitalizations during the past few days. Public health officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye says most of these cases are among adults between the ages of 40 and 60 who are not vaccinated and who have underlying conditions.
Gov. Gavin Newsom got his COVID-19 booster shot yesterday and encouraged anyone eligible to get theirs, too.
Newsom wasn't the only one — other local elected officials also got their booster shots at Oakland's Asian Health Services clinic. State Health Secretary Mark Ghaly administered the shot, saying, "All right, governor, this won't hurt a bit."
At the press event, Newsom flexed his arms in a victory pose after the needle left his arm, saying that his booster is "better than the flu shot."
Newsom was eligible for the booster because he took the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine earlier this year.
Other eligible groups include older adults, people with underlying health conditions, and those who live or work in high-risk settings and were vaccinated at least six months ago.
The governor urged Californians to get their boosters or get vaccinated if they haven't yet.
"We know the ticket out of this pandemic is getting these booster shots and getting the unvaccinated vaccinated," Newsom said.
Health officials fear another winter surge when California's death toll skyrocketed last year.
Whether you decide to go trick-or-treating with your family in the pandemic might depend on your situation and comfort level.
The COVID-19 transmission rate in your area is one factor to consider, as well as whether the other people your children will be exposed to are vaccinated.
According to the Associated Press, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that outdoor activities are safer than indoor ones and to avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces.
If you do go to an indoor party, the agency says the unvaccinated should wear a mask that fits well — and no, your Hannibal Lecter or other Halloween mask won't cut it.
Children who are too young for shots should also mask up.
San Diego restaurants will be allowed to continue serving customers on sidewalks and in streets following the City Council's approval of new regulations, according to the Associated Press.
Like in many areas around California, restaurants shifted to outdoor dining on streets and sidewalks during the pandemic to conform with mandates and keep customers and workers safe.
The 6-2 vote will take effect in July 2022 when the current program expires. Restaurant operations can be extended into metered and unmetered parking spaces in front of their venues, as long as they pay a fee, and are along unpainted, yellow or green curbs that are at least 20 feet from intersections, corners, alleys or driveways.
The streets also must have speed limits no greater than 30 mph.
Wednesday, October 27
Burnout is affecting nearly everyone in any position, but it seems to be very acute in the medical field.
Sutter Medical Center emergency room physician and Sierra-Sacramento Valley Medical Society board member Adam Dougherty says people keep leaving the field.
Dougherty said they are trying to address the scores of doctors leaving the profession by offering counseling and other programs through the Society.
“We have a future of medicine pipeline program for low-income high school students to be exposed to the health care industry and be able to shadow and learn how to enter the field,” he said.
Dougherty spoke with CapRadio’s Insight host Vicki Gonzalez about a longer-term solution. In the short term, he said his field will have to come to terms with the current realities doctors are facing.
Another California county has closed down an In-N-Out restaurant because the popular burger chain refuses to enforce COVID-19 vaccination rules, according to the Associated Press.
Contra Costa County health officials indefinitely shut the Pleasant Hill restaurant on Tuesday after it ignored repeated warnings to verify that indoor customers had vaccination cards.
San Francisco closed the only In-N-Out in the city for several days earlier this month for the same reason.
In-N-Out says it doesn’t want to become what it calls “the vaccination police for any government.” However, public health authorities see vaccine verification as a basic, easy and vital tool in slowing down COVID-19.
The pandemic has made clear what many experts had long warned — the absence of reliable and affordable child care limits the jobs people can accept, makes it harder to climb the corporate ladder and ultimately restricts the ability of the broader economy to grow.
Now, each caretaker's resignation, coronavirus exposure, and daycare center closure reveals an industry on the brink, with wide-reaching implications for an entire economy's workforce, according to the Associated Press.
It remains to be seen what survives in the brutal negotiations in Congress for President Joe Biden's broad family services agenda, but the pandemic is proving to be a make-or-break catalyst for the future of the child care industry.
Tuesday, October 26
California's unemployment agency is implementing reforms after struggling to keep up during the pandemic. However, at a special legislative hearing yesterday, the agency said that some problems could take years to fix.
The Employment Development Department has faced criticism throughout the pandemic. It was unprepared for a crush of people who lost work and needed assistance. It also paid out an estimated $20 billion in fraudulent claims during the height of the pandemic.
A pair of state audits from January detailed the problems and recommended fixes. Ten months later, about two-thirds of the fixes have been adopted.
Despite this, state Policy Evaluator Bob Harris told lawmakers there's still much more to do.
"If EDD doesn't continue to follow through on some of the initial positive steps it's taken, then it won't fully realize the benefits for Californians that need assistance," Harris said.
The legislative oversight hearing was initially scheduled for August but then got delayed multiple times.
EDD Director Rita Saenz said many of the agency's biggest problems are structural — like its decades-old software — and could take years to fix.
"It's not the people," Saenz said. "It was the systems that EDD was operating under that created the problem."
But lawmakers and the state audit laid much of the blame on Saenz's predecessor, who retired last year for poor planning and management.
The results from last month’s recall against Gov. Gavin Newsom are now finally official.
Republicans saw the recall as a chance to capitalize on anger over the state’s pandemic restrictions and oust Newsom. However, the final vote total showed 61.9% of voters opted to keep the governor in office.
That’s the exact vote tally the first-term Democrat got to win the 2018 gubernatorial election.
When compared to the 2018 election, only one county flipped. Voters in Merced County backed Newsom three years ago, but 52% voted to remove him during the recall.
One thing that has made a significant impact? Voting by mail is catching on in a big way, especially because of the pandemic. Nine out of ten votes cast in the recall election were through mail-in voting, which recently became universal and permanent thanks to a new law.
In an effort to ease congestion at the nation’s busiest port complex, officials say they will start fining shipping companies whose cargo containers linger for too long at marine terminals, according to the Associated Press.
The twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach say arriving containers scheduled to be moved by trucks will be allowed to stay for nine days before fines start accruing. Containers set to move by rail can remain at the ports for three days.
After that, ocean carriers will be charged $100 per container, increasing by $100 increments per container per day. The new rules will go into effect on Nov. 1.
As reported by NPR, the two California ports handle 40% of the country’s container traffic.
Part of the supply chain woes can be attributed to sharply decreasing job growth and after the world’s two largest ports in China had to shut down due to COVID-19 outbreaks. Hundreds of factories in Vietnam also shut down due to coronavirus safety measures.
The Biden administration says that part of the congestion issue is also tied to increased demand for goods, which they say is an indication of how quickly the U.S. is recovering from the aftermath of the pandemic.
Monday, October 25
10:57 a.m.: Sacramento area unemployment rate drops to 5.5%
Recent numbers show that the Sacramento area unemployment rate was 5.5% in September. That’s nearly a 10% drop from a year-and-a-half ago when pandemic restrictions triggered mass layoffs.
“Five-point-five percent is the lowest the unemployment rate has been since we hit that peak in April of 2020 at 14.4%,” said Cara Welch with the state Employment Development Department.
She said the last time the September unemployment rate was close to 5.5% was in 2015. Sectors that saw the biggest job gains last month include: education, healthcare, government, transportation and retail.
The ripple effects of a miscalibrated global supply chain is affecting consumers across the country and locally in Sacramento.
The malfunctioning system is being caused, in due part, to container ships waiting to be unloaded off the Southern California ports.
“We have a lot of vendors who are out anywhere between four weeks and about seven months,” said Jeremy Macdonald, CEO of Bonney Plumbing Heating and Air in Sacramento. “Depending on the category of component material that we’re looking for, that’s impacting our ability to service customers quickly.”
Macdonald said Bonney — a financial supporter for CapRadio — tried to stock up on supplies, but with the price of materials up and skilled technicians in short supply, higher costs are being pushed from business owners onto customers.
Linda Novi owns Mixed Bag, a retail store in Midtown Sacramento. Novi expects many stores will run out of popular holiday items.
“I would advise if you see it right now, pick it up because more than likely, we will not be able to get more of these before the holidays,” she said.
Earlier this month, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to try to relieve the pressure at state departments to develop recommendations to move goods faster.
Moderna says its low-dose COVID-19 vaccine is safe and appears to work in 6- to 11-year olds, as reported by the Associated Press.
It’s the second U.S. vaccine aimed at eventually being offered to children. The Food and Drug Administration is already considering kid-sized doses of the Pfizer vaccine for elementary school-aged children. If regulators give the OK, shots could be rolled out early next month.
As for Moderna, the company said half-dose shots induced strong levels of virus-fighting antibodies in young kids with temporary side effects such as fever and fatigue.
Saturday, October 23
Just as the COVID surge in the U.S. begins to decline, another variant has appeared, this time in the U.K. The “delta-plus” mutant now accounts for about 6% of all cases in the U.K.
"It's a bit like delta's grandchild," says epidemiologist William Hanage at Harvard University.
There isn’t yet enough data on if it’s more transmissible than the current version of COVID in the U.S.
"No one knows yet," says virologist Jeremy Luban at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. "It's too early to really know." Luban adds that "if it is more transmissible, it's likely to be a small increment."
Friday, October 22
Updated 2:42 p.m.
The Sacramento County Public Health Department is investigating a COVID-19 outbreak in the county's main jail and a correctional center in Elk Grove that has left nearly 70 people quarantined.
The department confirmed the outbreak on Oct. 18. There are 32 current cases at the Sacramento County Main Jail and 37 at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center, all of which are among inmates.
Dr. Olivia Kasirye, Sacramento County’s public health officer, said in a statement that people have been quarantined and “extensive testing is being done.”
“We are working closely with Correctional Health staff to conduct contact tracing and mitigate the spread,” Kasirye said.
The county said all of the cases are among unvaccinated people. As of Oct. 20, just 30% of inmates have had at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the public health department.
Inmates at the jail are not required to be vaccinated, but are “offered vaccinations and provided education about the benefits of vaccination,” the county said.
Millions more Americans are now eligible for COVID-19 boosters — and now, they can even get a brand different than their original shots, as reported by the Associated Press.
A number of factors, including the vaccine you started with and when your last dose was, help determine when you qualify, according to recommendations issued Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For example, if you started with Pfizer or Moderna and are older than 65 or just may be at a higher risk of infection, you can get a booster after six months. If you started with Johnson & Johnson, you can get a booster after two months, no matter your age.
British officials have identified a relative of the delta variant — delta plus.
According to the Associated Press, it’s not a variant of interest or concern, and it’s not officially named after a letter of the Greek alphabet, like other worrisome variants. So, scientists are monitoring the delta-related variant, informally known as “delta plus,” to see if it might spread more easily or be more deadly than previous versions of the coronavirus.
U.K. officials say this variant makes up 6% of all analyzed COVID-19 cases in the country and is increasing. The newer variant has two mutations in the spike protein, which helps the coronavirus invade the body’s cells.
Pfizer says kid-size doses of its COVID-19 vaccine are safe and nearly 91% effective at preventing symptomatic infections in elementary school children, according to the Associated Press.
Details of the study were posted online Friday as U.S. regulators consider opening vaccinations to youngsters 5 to 11. The shots could begin early next month if regulators give the go-ahead.
If the FDA authorizes the low-dose shots, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make the final recommendations on who should receive them. Full-strength Pfizer shots are already approved for anyone 12 or older.
Thursday, October 21
The Port of Oakland says it’s congestion-free and is welcoming container ships idling off the Southern California coast to come north and unload their cargo at Oakland’s docks.
Ports in West Sacramento and Stockton say they’re congestion-free too, but not quite equipped to handle such imposing and large container ships.
Jeff Wingfield with the Port of Stockton says that they mostly take in smaller bulk vessels that carry agricultural and industrial cargo, as does the port of West Sacramento.
“We would have to deepen our ship channel to handle some of the larger container ships, but we’ll never be able to deepen enough to handle the same ships that come into the ports of LA, Long Beach and Oakland,” Wingfield said.
He explained that the Stockton port is in a narrow ship channel through the Delta, and the largest boat they could go is roughly 40 feet.
Experts say that the back-up at the ports in LA and Long Beach is caused by labor shortages, holiday buying surges and COVID-19 related issues.
In-N-Out is in trouble with the San Francisco Bay Area county over vaccine verifications.
As reported by the Associated Press, Contra Costa County officials have found the burger chain’s Pleasant Hill location for failing to verify the vaccination cards of people choosing to dine indoors with their double-doubles, milkshakes, and fries.
The Irvine-based company did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, in response to San Francisco temporarily shutting down its Fisherman’s Wharf location, a top In-N-Out official called the basic public health and safety verification mandates “unreasonable” and “invasive.”
A government panel of experts is meeting to decide how to best expand the nation’s COVID-19 booster campaign, according to the Associated Press.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s panel is gathering today to discuss who should get extra doses of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
The group is also taking up the bigger question of what would happen if somebody gets a different brand for the booster than their original shots.
About two-thirds of Americans eligible for COVID-19 shots are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. Several million have gotten additional doses of Pfizer’s booster since regulators gave it the go-ahead last month.
Wednesday, October 20
Millions of dollars in federal COVID-19 funds intended to help California schools respond to the pandemic and safely reopen may end up going unspent and back to the federal government.
The latest report from the California State Auditor details that $160 million in emergency education relief could revert to the federal government if the state Department of Education doesn’t work on having better oversight.
One of the main issues? Specifically making sure school districts, charter schools and other local education agencies — also known as LEAs — are promptly using the money.
The audit found nearly 90 LEAs have spent less than 20% of their initial emergency relief funds. At that rate, those agencies are at risk of not meeting federal spending deadlines and losing the money.
The auditor also issued several recommendations to help fix the problem, including targeted outreach to LEAs that fail to submit spending reports. The state Department of Education agreed with some recommendations but disagreed with the other intended to strengthen monitoring efforts.
Kids aged 5 to 11 will soon be able to get a COVID-19 shot at their pediatrician's office, local pharmacy and possibly even at their school.
According to the Associated Press, the White House is detailing plans today for the expected authorization of the Pfizer shot for younger children in a matter of weeks.
NPR reports that the vaccine could be cleared for use within a couple of weeks. The FDA’s independent advisory committee meeting is scheduled for Oct. 26, while the CDC’s independent advisory committee meeting is set for Nov. 2-3.
The county has ample supplies of shots to vaccinate the roughly 28 million kids who will soon be eligible and have been working for months to ensure the widespread availability of shots once approved.
Federal regulators will meet over the next two weeks to weigh the benefits of giving shots to kids after lengthy studies meant to ensure the safety of the vaccines.
President Joe Biden’s most aggressive move yet to combat the COVID-19 pandemic is almost ready to see the light of day.
According to the Associated Press, the government is close to publishing the details of a new vaccination-or-testing rule covering more than 80 million Americans at companies with 100 or more workers.
Businesses are eager to see how and when companies will have to require their employees to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing. However, the full enforcement deadline may not take effect until next year.
The new rule could carry penalties of about $14,000 per violation.
Tuesday, October 19
A new report by the Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies shows that the mental health of Filipino Americans has suffered during the pandemic.
About 18% of the state’s nursing workforce is Filipino, and the Bulosan Center reported that 1 in 3 Filipinos surveyed were essential workers. Bulosan Center Director Robyn Rodriguez said because of that high proportion of health care workers, many Filipino Americans have experienced significant mental health impacts.
“From all of that research, we find that one in four of those surveyed experienced either anxiety or depression, and it really had to do with fears and apprehensions about the possibility of getting COVID,” Rodriquez said.
The center hopes more studies looking at the pandemic’s effects on Asian American workers can help address the mental health stigma in the community.
About 1,000 people crowded the front steps of the California state Capitol to protest Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to require all children to get the coronavirus vaccine to attend public and private schools.
As reported by the Associated Press, Newsom’s latest mandate made California the first state in the country to say it will require the COVID-19 vaccine for schoolchildren once it receives full federal approval.
Some parents at the Sacramento rally had said they pulled their kids out of school, hoping that the absences send a message to state officials. About 72% of Californians 12 and older are fully vaccinated.
U.S. health officials are setting the stage for a national COVID-19 vaccination campaign for younger children, inviting state officials to pre-order doses starting next week, according to the Associated Press.
In meetings scheduled in the next three weeks, federal officials plan to discuss making shots made by Pfizer available for kids ages 5 to 11.
To help states and cities prepare, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week sent out a 7-page planning guide that some say provided important clarifications on how to set up the programs.
Monday, October 18
A key panel advising the Food and Drug Administration voted late last week to recommend booster doses for both the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines.
Currently, the FDA has only authorized boosters of the Pfizer vaccine for people 65 and older or those at a higher risk.
The advisory panel also discussed the merits of mixing doses but didn’t make a recommendation. In a recent interview with CapRadio, Dr. Dean Blumberg at UC Davis Children’s Hospital said there may be some benefit of vaccine mixing.
“There are a small number of studies that suggest getting a different vaccine … so mixing and matching the vaccine results in an advantageous immune response,” Blumberg said.
He also said that some people might be influenced by that data and that others may just end up selecting boosters with the least reported side effects.
COVID-19 vaccines are widely available now, so Californians are more protected than they were this time last year.
However, experts say precautions are still necessary to prevent a winter surge, and that’s because vaccinated people can still spread the disease.
“If you have any member of a household or group of people who are not vaccinated … they cannot be reassured that just because most members of the family or most members of their close contacts are vaccinated, that they will not get infected,” said Dr. Lee Riley, an epidemiologist at UC Berkeley.
Health officials have said that if you’re planning on getting together, it’s best to open windows for airflow and ask unvaccinated people to wear masks.
COVID-19 booster shots are an extra dose of the original vaccine, and some experts wonder why they weren't updated to match the delta variant better.
According to the Associated Press, the extra-contagious dominant delta variant will likely influence future mutations. Vaccine makers didn't ask to change the recipe for booster doses, saying the original shots will work against delta.
However, Pfizer and Moderna are testing tweaked formulas. Scientists say it's essential to learn how the immune system reacts to a subtly different booster in case it's eventually needed.
Sunday, October 17
Some cities are urging President Joe Biden’s administration to loosen its rules for how state and local governments can spend $350 billion of coronavirus relief money.
The American Rescue Plan already provides significant freedom on spending decisions, but local governments that can show revenue losses have even greater leeway to spend the money as they see fit.
Some cities say the Treasury Department’s rule for calculating revenue losses masks the depth of their financial problems and want the Treasury to allow them to exclude newly enacted tax hikes from the formula and to count losses on a fund-by-fund basis.
One project that has slowed while projects in other cities move ahead due to this is the $25 million rehabilitation of an iconic bridge connecting the Oceanside pier to Pacific Street in Oceanside.
The Treasury has not said when it will release a final version of its rule.
Saturday, October 16
A new report from the Tahoe Prosperity Center raises concerns about the changes in Lake Tahoe’s workforce and the future of the region’s economy, including the looming impacts of climate change, according to the Associated Press.
The report states that the pandemic helped to expose the growing vulnerability of the area’s increasing dependence on tourism as housing costs skyrocket, year-round residency declines and more workers commute from afar or seek jobs elsewhere.
Tourism accounts for more than 60% of Lake Tahoe’s $5 billion regional economy, up from 40% in 2010. The Tahoe Prosperity Center says these findings underscore the need to seek more economic diversity, build more affordable housing and utilize an increasingly skilled workforce.
Friday, October 15
A panel of U.S. health advisers has endorsed booster doses of Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Associated Press.
The Food and Drug Administration panel said Friday that the booster should be offered at least two months after immunization but didn't suggest a firm time. The FDA isn’t bound by the vote but its ultimate decision could help expand the nation’s booster campaign.
Booster doses of Pfizer’s vaccine began last month for people at high risk of COVID-19, and the FDA advisory panel has recommended the same approach for Moderna. In contrast, the panel backed boosters for anyone 18 and older who received the J&J vaccine.
Nurses around the country are getting burned out by the COVID-19 crisis and quitting. Meanwhile, applications to nursing schools are increasing.
Educators say young people see the global emergency as an opportunity and a challenge.
"We are seeing an increase. We were beginning to come down a little bit before 2020 and now we've come up again," said Susan Peterson, who heads the Nursing Program at American River College in Sacramento. "Right now we have received about 440 applications for our 40 seats that will be open in the spring."
Nationally, enrollment in bachelor's, master's and doctoral nursing programs increased 5.5% in 2020 from the year before to just over 250,000 students. That's according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. The higher enrollment could help ease a nursing shortage that existed even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is committing $100 million through the American Rescue Plan to help combat burnout and shortages of health care workers
"Our health care workers have worked tirelessly to save lives throughout this pandemic and now it's our turn to invest in them," Health and Human Services Secretary and former California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement.
According to NPR, the funds are open for applications until April 8, 2022. The money is available for "state-run programs that support, recruit, and retain primary care clinicians who live and work in underserved communities," HHS says. The department hopes being able to retain health care workers in underserved areas will help improve health equity.
Thursday, October 14
Staff and students over age 12 in the Sacramento City Unified School District have until Nov. 30 to get at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The Sacramento City Unified Board of Education approved the requirement on Tuesday, making the vaccine a condition of in-person instruction. Eligible students who are not vaccinated or don’t have an exemption will be enrolled in independent study for the second semester, which starts in January.
Superintendent Jorge Aguilar said families who spoke by Zoom at the hearing were divided, but he believes the mandate is a bold stand to protect public health.
“We serve a population of students where almost three out of four students are low-income," Aguilar said. "They’re English-learners, they’re fostered, they’re homeless. And we’re gonna do everything we can do to mitigate the spread of COVID, knowing it doesn’t stop at the doors of our school.”
Aguilar said provisions are being made to request exemptions, which will come with a requirement for COVID-19 testing on a regular, routine basis.
“What will happen on Dec. 1 is we will be following up with all of those families who haven’t submitted a proof of vaccination or an exemption," Aguilar said. "We are going to do everything we can to address any barriers, obstacles, questions, concerns that they might have."
The mandate was written so when the vaccine is approved for kids between age 5 and 11, it will automatically take effect for students in that age bracket.
Yolo County's COVID-19 case rate is declining. It's now down to 12 cases per 100,000 residents per day, nearly identical to the state rate.
"In addition to our decreasing case rate, the testing positivity rate in Yolo County remains very low, with less than 1% of tests for COVID-19 coming back positive," County Health Officer Doctor Aimee Sisson told the Board of Supervisors this week.
Overall, 245 Yolo County residents have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Since mid-January — when people first started being fully vaccinated — 81 Yolo County residents have died. Sisson says only seven of those people were fully vaccinated, and each was over 60 and had underlying health conditions.
"Ninety-four percent of those who have died since vaccines became available were not fully vaccinated," she said. "Nearly all of these 74 deaths could have been prevented with vaccination."
Until last week, Yolo County was in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's red "high transmission" tier. But with case rates down, it's now in the orange "substantial transmission" category.
Wednesday, October 13
California State University, Chico says more than 90% of its students are vaccinated against COVID-19. Students were required to get the shot by the end of September or risk being removed from in-person classes.
Mike Guzzi, Chico State’s director of emergency operations, says 98% of the school’s roughly 15,600 students are either vaccinated against COVID-19 or have received medical or religious exemptions. The exemption pool totaled about 700 students.
“When we got down close to the deadline, we actually created a call campaign, where we had faculty and staff, literally dialing all of the students that hadn't done anything yet and saying, you need to take action, or else there's going to be consequences, you're going to be withdrawn from your in-person classes. And students took action,” Guzzi said.
About 115 students hadn’t certified their vaccination status or hadn’t received an exemption as of last Friday. Guzzi said they’ve been pulled from their classes on campus but can still attend online courses. He said students who don’t act also won't be able to enroll in in-person classes when registration opens for the spring semester.
The U.S. will start allowing nonessential travelers from Mexico and Canada to enter the country next month.
Anyone crossing into the country will have to prove they are fully vaccinated. Currently, essential travelers don't need to be vaccinated, but that will change in January.
Nonessential travelers have been barred since March 2020. The Biden administration has not said exactly when the new policy will take effect next month.
Tuesday, October 12
9:36 a.m.: California passes 70,000 coronavirus deaths
California’s coronavirus death toll has reached another once-unfathomable milestone: 70,000 people.
The mark recorded Monday by Johns Hopkins University is the highest in the country, the Associated Press reports. Texas is about 3,000 deaths behind.
The milestone comes as California is experiencing the lowest rate of new infection cases among all states. That leaves California in a much better situation as it enters the colder months. Cases began ticking up last October, and by January California was the country's epicenter for the virus.
California’s health secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly tells The Associated Press he doesn't foresee the state repeating such a surge and that new stay-at-home orders aren't expected.
Moderna and Johnson & Johnson say their data supports the use of boosters in people 18 and older six months or longer after initial immunization, according to NPR.
The Food and Drug Administration released briefing documents Tuesday on booster shots for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines ahead of a two-day public meeting of advisers to the agency that starts Thursday.
However, in light of the FDA's action on Pfizer-BioNTech's booster application last month, Moderna is seeking authorization of a booster dose of its vaccine on the same terms. That means the booster would be for people 65 and older, those ages 18 to 64 and at high risk for severe COVID-19 and people 18 to 64 whose institutional or occupational exposure put them at risk for severe COVID-19.
Around 2 of every 5 American households have fallen behind because of the pandemic, according to a new national poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
The poll found that 28% of U.S. households reported facing serious financial problems in the past few months, and more than half of Black, Latino and Native American families.
Americans were also sharply divided by income, with 59% of those making less than $50,000 reporting financial trouble, compared to 18% of those making more than $50,000 a year.
Monday, October 11
Drugmaker Merck asked U.S. regulators Monday to authorize its pill against COVID-19 in what would add an entirely new and easy-to-use weapon to the world's arsenal against the pandemic.
If cleared by the Food and Drug Administration — a decision that could come in a matter of weeks — it would be the first pill shown to treat COVID-19. All other FDA-backed treatments against the disease require an IV or injection.
An antiviral pill that people could take at home to reduce their symptoms and speed recovery could prove groundbreaking, easing the crushing caseload on U.S. hospitals and helping to curb outbreaks in poorer countries with weak health care systems. It would also bolster the two-pronged approach to the pandemic: treatment, by way of medication, and prevention, primarily through vaccinations.
The FDA will scrutinize company data on the safety and effectiveness of the drug, molnupiravir, before rendering a decision.
Gov. Gavin Newsom last week signed a slew of bills aimed at helping small businesses dig out of pandemic-induced financial holes. The bills include measures that allow to-go cocktails and expand outdoor dining.
Newsom says that legislation will help restaurants work around local rules that slowed down expansion before the pandemic.
"But now we've just broken past that mindset and now, you know, eat your heart out, Paris<" Newsom said. "You know, it's like you go all across the state and you're like, Why haven't we done this ... 30 years ago?"
The new legislation will let restaurants keep their outdoor seating spaces until 2024 or until a year after the pandemic emergency ends, whichever comes first.
Californians will also be able to continue to take their favorite cocktails to-go, which started as a way to help restaurants generate revenue during the early days of the pandemic. Senate Bill 389 keeps that provision in place for at least the next five years.
The cocktails must be sold with food and they have to come with a sealed cover or lid. Customers are limited to two alcoholic beverages per takeout meal...and must pick up the order in person.
8:29 a.m.: Nevada adds rapid test results to statewide
Nevada this week became one of the last states to include rapid antigen tests in its coronavirus tallies, according to the Associated Press.
Experts say the change could provide a fuller picture of the pandemic but also upend metrics used to gauge how the virus is spreading. Health officials say they weren't added earlier because their limited resources and staff had focused on vaccines and contact tracing confirmed cases.
Nevada and Maryland were the last two holdouts that didn’t publicly report antigen tests in defiance of federal guidance. Worries about the supply of rapid tests and varied ways that states report them reflects the continued absence of a national testing strategy.
Sunday, October 10
The U.S. census tends to overcount people who identify as white and not Latino, while undercounting other racial and ethnic groups. That unevenness often means inequities when census data is used to redraw voting districts and inform research and planning.
The Post-Enumeration Survey was expected to be a month-long operation for gathering information on housing units starting in late October, but is now set to begin sometime in November and end in February.
"We adjusted the start date and operational length as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the schedule of the preceding census operations," the bureau said of the change to the Post-Enumeration Survey, which does not involve college dorms, prisons or other group-living quarters and is not conducted in remote areas of Alaska.
Saturday, October 9
While most states reduced their spending last year, California went from a massive $54 billion deficit to an even more astounding $80 billion surplus this year — and that doesn't even include billions more in pandemic aid from the federal government.
This new money has mostly gone towards strengthening the social safety net — rent relief, stimulus checks, health care for older, undocumented immigrants and free school lunches for every public school student across the state.
States that have diverse tax revenue streams, like California, have seen their budgets bounce back, says Lucy Dadayan, a tax policy expert with the Urban Institute.
Read more here.
Friday, October 8
Counties in the San Francisco Bay Area will start easing their requirements for people to wear masks inside many public spaces, according to the Associated Press.
A group of eight counties in the region said that the rules will be dropped when overall vaccination rates are above 80% and COVID-19 transmission rates and hospitalizations are low.
In San Francisco, where places like gyms and offices already require people to show proof of vaccination, some will be allowed to drop masks next week.
The Bay Area has the highest vaccination rates and lowest case rates in the nation. In August, counties had reinstated the indoor mask mandate as infections surged because of the highly contagious delta variant.
A new military investigation found the coronavirus pandemic curtailed training in 2020 and contributed to nine service members drowning off San Diego’s coast.
According to the Associated Press, the findings released Wednesday were from the latest investigation into the sinking of an amphibious assault vehicle on July 30, 2020.
It was one of the Marine Corps’ deadliest training accidents in recent years. A previous investigation by the maritime branch found the sinking off San Clemente Island was caused by inadequate training, shabby maintenance of the 35-year-old amphibious assault vehicles, and poor judgment by commanders. The latest probe looked at the troops’ readiness.
With a second pandemic winter approaching, there are promising signs that the worst of the delta surge has run its course, but the short-staffed and backlogged American hospitals are still a cause of concern.
As reported by NPR, many hospitals are staring down a tough stretch of cold months with the threat of a potentially bad flu season combined with an influx of patients trying to catch up on delayed care and a depleted workforce that’s had little time to regroup from the latest surge of COVID-19 infections.
“It’s like a perfect storm, right? High volume, high acuity and low staff,” says emergency physician Dr. Gregg Miller, the chief medical officer for health care staffing group Vituity. “Winters are already tough for hospitals and emergency departments.”
And while some of the leading COVID-19 modeling suggests the U.S. will be spared another major COVID-19 onslaught during the holiday season, recent history has shown hospitals that nothing is predictable with this virus.
Thursday, October 7
Health care giant Kaiser Permanente has put about 1% out of 216,000 total employees nationwide — around 2,220 people — on unpaid leave for refusing all coronavirus vaccines.
According to the Associated Press, the company says the employees have until Dec. 1 to get vaccinated, and those who choose not will be terminated.
The company said that since announcing the requirement on Aug. 2, the vaccination rate among employees has gone from 78% to 92%. The mandates have proven to be successful, with many companies and employers seeing high compliance rates.
Kaiser did not disclose how many exemptions it has approved for religious and medical reasons.
September was the third-deadliest COVID-19 month in Washoe County since the pandemic began, as reported by the Associated Press.
But Nevada state health officials have said that coronavirus trends are continuing to improve in Reno-Sparks, Las Vegas, and across most of the state after a summer surge in cases and hospitalizations began to plateau late last month.
The 14-day average for new daily cases statewide fell to 620 on Wednesday, the lowest it’s been since mid-July.
The 14-day average for the positivity rate statewide dropped to 8.5% on Tuesday. It was nearly double that much in August and hovered above 10% during most of September. Now, it’s 6.7% in Clark County and 13.5% in Washoe county.
Pfizer is asking the U.S. government to allow the use of its COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 5 to 11, according to the Associated Press.
If regulators agree, shots could be arriving within a matter of weeks. The pharma giant has already announced that a lower dose of its vaccine worked and appeared safe in a study of young children.
Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech officially filed its application with the Food and Drug Administration. FDA advisers are scheduled to debate the evidence later this month. Until now, the vaccine was available only for children as young as 12.
The AP reports that many parents and pediatricians have been clamoring for protection for younger kids.
Wednesday, October 6
A new study by UC Davis researchers shows no significant difference in the amount of virus shed by vaccinated and unvaccinated people who develop COVID-19.
The study appears to confirm what other research has found — that while vaccines are still effective at preventing illness, vaccinated people can still infect others.
“Vaccines still protect you from getting sick,” said David Coil, a researcher on the project. “This doesn’t say anything about that. It’s just that the people who do get sick, they still have similar viral loads to people who weren’t vaccinated.”
The study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, also shows asymptomatic people shed similar amounts of virus to those with symptoms.
“Public health recommendations need to not give people a free pass because they’ve been vaccinated or just because they’re asymptomatic,” Coil said.
In high-risk areas, people should still consider continuing mask usage and giving crowds and others enough space.
A fall trip to Yosemite has become a little easier to arrange, as reservations are no longer required to visit the national park.
For months, the National Park Service has required reservations even to drive into Yosemite or to make a day trip. The goal of the reservation system was to reduce the number of visitors due to COVID-19 safety protocols but also to avoid overwhelming the reduced staff and services.
Now, the NPS has lifted the requirement. Entrance fees of $35 per vehicle can be paid online or at any park entrance station. Admission is good for seven consecutive days.
Masking wearing is required everywhere in the park, regardless of vaccination status. As it was in the “before times,” campsite or lodge reservations are still highly recommended — if you can get one.
Los Angeles leaders are poised to enact one of the nation’s strictest vaccine mandates — a sweeping measure that would require shots for everyone entering a bar, restaurant, nail salon, gym or even a Lakers basketball game.
The City Council is scheduled to consider the proposal, and most members have said they support it as a way of preventing further COVID-19 surges.
Critics say the measure raises concerns about enforcement and will sow confusion because a similar but less-sweeping vaccination mandate is scheduled to take effect next month in LA County as a whole and only applies to bars, breweries and nightclubs.
Tuesday, October 5
Nevada health officials are now counting results from rapid antigen tests in the coronavirus data that they present to the public instead of only counting the traditional molecular tests processed in the laboratories, according to the Associated Press.
The state updated its health response dashboard on Monday and added more than 600,000 tests to its count. Before Monday, only Nevada and Maryland did not publicly display probable case data from rapid tests in their online tallies.
Nevada health officials say the change will give them a more comprehensive picture of the pandemic as the rapid tests become increasingly common in the United States.
Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson has asked U.S regulators to allow booster shots of its COVID-19 vaccine as the U.S. government moves toward shoring up protection in more vaccinated Americans.
According to the Associated Press, J&J said it filed data with the Food and Drug Administration on giving a booster dose between two to six months after vaccination.
The U.S. government last month authorized booster doses of Pfizer’s vaccine in vulnerable groups. A panel of FDA advisers meets next week to consider boosters for both J&J and Moderna vaccines. It’s part of an all-out effort by the Biden administration to boost protection amid the delta variant and potential waning of vaccine strength.
A year and a half in, and the pandemic is still agonizing families.
As reported by the Associated Press, the pandemic adds weight to the exhaustion of worrying about exposure to COVID-19 itself and the stress of policies at schools and daycares where children spend most of their time.
The spread of the more infectious delta variant, particularly among people who refuse vaccinations, has caused a big increase in infections in children. But there’s also COVID-19 exposures and illnesses — and even minor colds — at schools and daycares that mean children get sent home, forcing parents to scramble for child care.
For many parents, deciding what’s OK for children to do and what isn’t can feel fraught.
Monday, October 4
11:09 a.m.: Nevada will require COVID-19 vaccines for employees at all public universities and colleges
Employees at all public universities and colleges in Nevada are required to get their COVID-19 vaccinations by Dec. 1 or face potential termination.
According to the Associated Press, all new hires also will have to prove their vaccination status under the new policy. Meanwhile, coronavirus case trends are improving in urban areas but have worsened in most rural parts of the state, where vaccination rates are the lowest.
The 14-day moving average for newly confirmed cases has fallen to 321 per 100,000 residents in Clark County, including Las Vegas.
That compares to 1,704 in all counties outside Carson City, Clark and Washoe counties, including Reno-Sparks.
11:01 a.m.: Doctors and front-line health care workers are exhausted of COVID-19 denial and misinformation
Front-line medical workers are growing weary of COVID-19 denial and misinformation in treating unvaccinated patients during the delta-driven surge, according to the Associated Press.
Some doctors report being constantly asked to prescribe an unproven parasite drug, and patients sometimes lash out when they’re told no.
The AP reports that some doctors are hearing patients telling them that microchips are embedded in DNA mutating vaccines, that the vaccines are killing people and not COVID-19, and much more.
One doctor found themselves resorting to showing patients a list of Twinkies ingredients, reminding those who are skeptical about the makeup of vaccines, are also consuming everyday products that have a lot of safe additives that they may not understand.
Such misinformation has been a significant driver of vaccine hesitancy that has contributed to the deadly delta surge and lifted the COVID-19 death toll past 700,000.
10:25 a.m.: Las Vegas sees protests against state coronavirus vaccine and mask mandates
A weekend protest of coronavirus vaccine and mask mandates drew several hundred people to the Las Vegas Strip, where marchers with signs and t-shirts declaring “freedom of choice” snaked around sidewalks and into some resorts.
According to the Associated Press, police did not immediately report any citations, arrests, damage or injuries during the Sunday evening demonstration against Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak’s COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates.
Sisolak last month ordered mandatory vaccination for state workers, including those working with at-risk populations in state-operated detention and health care facilities.
State university regents last week said employees at all public universities and colleges in Nevada must COVID-19 vaccinations by Dec. 1 or face the loss of their jobs.
Sunday, October 3
1:16 p.m.: The U.S. hits 700,000 COVID deaths
In 3 ½ months, the U.S. went from 600,000 to 700,000 COVID deaths—driven by the delta variant's spread through unvaccinated Americans.
An estimated 70 million eligible Americans remain unvaccinated, even though vaccines have been available to all eligible Americans for nearly six months and the shots overwhelmingly protect against hospitalizations and death.
Saturday, October 2
California’s COVID-era eviction moratorium expired at midnight Thursday, meaning Californians behind on their rent are now in danger of being kicked out of their homes.
“It turns out that about one out of every seven renters are currently behind in rent,” said Hans Johnson a demographer at the Public Policy Institute of California, which examined Census Bureau surveys. “Meaning that they are not paid up through the current month. And that amounts to over one million renters in California.”
Half of those people say they believe it’s likely they’ll be evicted, which could add up to half a million people to California’s unhoused population, at least temporarily. 68% of those surveyed are at least two months behind on rent. More than a quarter are five months or more behind.
The California Department of Housing and Community Development is offering assistance, as is the City of Sacramento. Qualified renters who apply for assistance are automatically protected from eviction through March of next year, and landlords must apply on their tenants’ behalf before beginning eviction proceedings.
Friday, October 1
Enloe Medical Center in Chico said it’s experiencing another coronavirus surge, according to the hospital’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Marcia Nelson.
She said the hospital’s first COVID-19 surge began after the 2020 Fourth of July holiday weekend. The second was after Thanksgiving and lasted through the Christmas holiday. This latest surge started about two months ago, coinciding with the rise of the delta variant.
“That means we’ve had more admissions — more people on ventilators — than we’ve had over the several months prior,” Nelson said.
The hospital said it was caring for 83 patients with COVID-19, with 20 of them in intensive care. Nelson said this is the most COVID-19 patients they’ve had in the ICU since the start of the pandemic.
She’s concerned about Chico residents who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19 since she said they end up spending more time hospitalized than vaccinated patients.
“If you are unvaccinated, your length of stay will be about a half to a full day longer than somebody who is unvaccinated,” she said. “So, people who are unvaccinated are sicker when they come into the hospital.”
Nelson said most of their COVID-19 patients are not fully vaccinated.
Nevada state regulators say casinos continued to ride a hot streak in August, recording more than $1 billion in house winnings for the sixth straight month as gambling statewide returns to pre-pandemic levels.
According to the Associated Press, the Nevada Gaming Control Board reported Thursday that casinos statewide said they’re taking in almost $1.2 billion in August, following a record nearly $1.4 billion in July.
Overall, casino winnings were up 22% compared with August 2019. The solid winnings tally came despite the restoration of indoor mask mandates for vaccinated and unvaccinated people due to the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant.
The report shows the state reaped $74 million in revenues based on the August monthly winnings.
Pharmaceutical giant Merck says its experimental COVID-19 pill reduced hospitalizations and deaths by half in people recently infected with the coronavirus.
According to the Associated Press, this could potentially be a leap forward in the global fight against the pandemic. The company said it will soon ask health officials in the U.S. and around the world to authorize the pill’s use.
A decision from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could come within weeks after that. If cleared, the drug would be the first pill shown to treat COVID-19. All COVID-19 therapies now authorized in the U.S. require IV or injection.
The results have not been peer-reviewed by outside experts. An independent group of medical advisers monitoring the trial recommended stopping it early because the interim results were so strong.
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