California Coronavirus Updates: California Reports First Case Of UK COVID-19 Variant


Find an updated count of COVID-19 cases in California and by county on our tracker here.

Latest Updates

Nevada worries about a New Years Eve event planned in Las Vegas

About half of Washoe County hospital workers, first-responders vaccinated for COVID-19

Pandemic leads more people to have backyard chickens

California reports first case of UK COVID-19 variant

Gov. Gavin Newsom announces plans to reopen schools for in-person learning

 

COVID-19 By The Numbers

Wednesday, December 30

3:46 p.m.: Nevada worries about a New Years Eve event planned in Las Vegas

Nevada officials are concerned about a New Year’s Eve event scheduled under a canopied casino mall in Las Vegas, according to the Associated Press.

The event is expected to draw at least 14,000 people and may lead to a surge in COVID-19cases. State coronavirus taskforce members have said that the Fremont Street Experience event violates statewide coronavirus guidelines and could cause a new virus spread.

The city of Las Vegas issued the venue a special-use permit and plans to prohibit street performers and control crows. Clark County Commission Chair Marilyn Kirkpatrick said she is worried the event could lead to a considerable surge that could overwhelm near-capacity hospitals.

3:45 p.m.: About half of Washoe County hospital workers, first-responders vaccinated for COVID-19

The Washoe County health district officer said nearly half of the hospital workers, first responders, and others in the priority category have received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine in the Reno-Sparks area.

According to the Associated Press, the county’s district officer Kevin Dick told Reno reporters on Wednesday that it’s unrealistic to think the shots will be available to the general public before late spring or early summer. 

Gov. Steve Sisolak scheduled a news conference Wednesday afternoon to provide an update on the vaccination effort statewide. Dick estimates that of the roughly 30,000 people in the county in the Tier 1 vaccination group, about 10,000 to 15,000 have received the first dose of the vaccination.

3:38 p.m.: Pandemic leads more people to have backyard chickens

The coronavirus pandemic is leading some Americans to come home to roost with chickens in their backyards.

According to the Associated Press, after being forced to hunker down at home, more people are setting up coops and raising their own chickens, which provide an earthy hobby, animal companionship and a steady supply of fresh eggs. 

While amateur chicken-keeping has grown in popularity as more people have focused on environmental sustainability and taken an interest in the food they eat, the pandemic has accelerated those trends, promoting a leap into poultry parenthood. 

Businesses that sell chicks, coops and other fowl-related supplies say they’ve seen a surge in demand since the coronavirus arrived in the states.

12:02 p.m.: Gov. Gavin Newsom announces plans to reopen schools for in-person learning

Gov. Gavin Newsom encouraged schools to resume in-person education next year, according to the Associated Press.

The plan will start with the youngest students and promises $2 billion in state aid to promote coronavirus testing, increased classroom ventilation, and personal protective equipment. The recommendation announced on Wednesday was driven by growing evidence that there are lower risks and increased benefits from in-person instruction, particularly for the youngest students.

The proposal comes as California struggles under the largest COVID-19 outbreak in the country. However, hope is on the horizon as vaccine rollout continues, with educators among those recommended for shots after the initial round goes to health care workers.

11:08 a.m.: California changes mandatory nurse-to-patient ratios, increasing workload on nurses

California telemetry nurses specialize in electronic monitoring of critically ill patients and typically work with, at most, four patients at once.

However, according to NPR, California has recently relaxed these nurse-to-patient ratios, and some nurses report taking on up to six patients at once. Generally, patients on these machines are very ill and need constant heart monitoring. Many of them are suffering from other diseases like stroke or heart attack, along with a COVID-19 infection.

As the state asks nurses to take on more work due to the flood of COVID-19 patients in emergency rooms, many nurses and their unions feel like this is watering down a law that puts legal restrictions on the nurse-to-patient ratio — the only law like this in the country.

California is scrambling to find enough nurses to care for the flood of patients, changing the ratios now from three patients instead of two under ICU nurses’ care. Emergency room and telemetry nurses have been bumped up to six from four, and medical-surgical nurses are looking after seven patients instead of five.

Some nurses have started protesting while socially distancing with posters that read “Ratios Save Lives.” The California Nurses Association union says the staffing shortage results from bad hospital management, but hospitals say that the pandemic has spiraled beyond their control as four times as many Californians are testing positive for coronavirus compared to the summer peak.

The California Hospital Association predicts that as many as 7,000 new patients could soon be admitted to hospitals daily.

Tuesday, December 29

5:02 p.m.: Stay-at-home orders extended in San Joaquin Valley, Southern California

Stay-at-home orders have been extended in the San Joaquin Valley and in Southern California regions.

California health leaders say hospitals are being stretched thin because of a more than 35% increase in both hospitalizations and ICU admissions around the state over the last two weeks. 

California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly says hospitals are running out of staff, and emergency room wait times are much longer than usual.

“We essentially are projecting that the ICU capacity is not improving in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley and that the demand will continue to exceed capacity.”

The renewed stay-at-home orders prohibit private gatherings, close outdoor dining, and restrict retailers to only 20% capacity.

3:14 p.m.: President-elect Joe Biden wants to speed up COVID-19 vaccine distribution

The Trump administration is facing some criticism from President-elect Joe Biden about the COVID-19 distribution pace, according to the Associated Press.

Biden has said the pace is “falling behind,” and to reach mass inoculation, “it’s gonna take years, not months, to vaccinate the American people.” He has also vowed to ramp up the current vaccination speed five to six times to 1 million shots a day.

Trump waved off Biden’s critique online. “It is up to the States to distribute the vaccines once brought to the designated areas by the Federal Government,” he tweeted Tuesday. “We have not only developed the vaccines, including putting up money to move the process along quickly, but gotten them to the states.”

Still, even with a speedup, Biden acknowledged that it “will still take months to have the majority of Americans vaccinated.” The president-elect will take office on Jan. 20 and has directed his team to prepare a “much more aggressive effort to get things back on track.”

3:11 p.m.: Current COVID-19 vaccines will likely work on new coronavirus mutation

Will COVID-19 vaccines work on the new coronavirus variant?AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin

Health experts have said that the current COVID-19 vaccines will likely work on the new United Kingdom coronavirus mutation, but they are working to confirm that, according to the Associated Press.

The U.K. variant has sounded some alarms due to the possibility that it may spread more easily. Viruses often go through small incremental changes as they move through various populations. The worry is, if a virus mutates significantly enough, current vaccines may no longer be as effective or protective.

While this is a real possibility that will need to be monitored over time, experts have said that they don’t believe this will be the case with this new variant.

9:11 a.m.: California tries to prevent “line-cutting” for COVID-19 vaccine

Gov. Gavin Newsom said that equity will be a significant component of who gets the COVID-19 vaccine and in what order.

Asked about the possibility of medical professionals either cutting ahead of other people or using their positions to get friends or family vaccinated ahead of schedule, Newsom said that anyone who tries to skip ahead will be held accountable.

“I just want to make this crystal clear. If you skip the line or you intend to skip the line, you will be sanctioned, you will lose your license,” Newsom said during a Monday press conference. “You’ll not only lose your license, we will be very aggressive in terms of highlighting the reputational impacts as well.”

The governor also said that while there have been publicized incidents of restaurants, casinos, and other California businesses trying to organize large events under the radar, most Californians are complying with current COVID-19 restrictions.

Monday, December 28

5:50 p.m.: Department of Defense is sending medical teams to San Joaquin hospitals

The U.S. Department of Defense is sending two medical teams to San Joaquin County hospitals to help them increase ICU capacity arriving tomorrow.

ICU capacity has soared with six out of seven hospitals at or over capacity.

Two medical teams with a total of 35 members including physicians, nurses, and respiratory therapists will go to Dameron Hospital in Stockton and Adventist Health Lodi Memorial.

Hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the county number 342 and make up almost 60% of the ICU patients.

Brooke McCullough with Dameron and Adventist says those two hospitals have the room to accept more patients but not the ICU staff, so the military medical teams will fill that void.

“ICU nurses aren’t easily available to hire right now especially during COVID,” McCullough said. “There’s very limited availability and so this allows us to increase our capacity within two to three days of their arrival.”

McCullough said the teams are committed to stay for 30 days, but that she expects to see another jump in patients after the new year with an increase in the positivity rate.

5:46 p.m.: One more day of data needed to determine stay-at-home order extensions, says Newsom

Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley are approaching three weeks under California’s stay-at-home order. It was triggered when their ICU capacity dropped below 15%. Gov. Gavin Newsom said one more day of data is needed to make the decision about whether to relax or lengthen the orders.

“It’s likely those stay-at-home orders will be extended,” Newsom said. “But again, based upon the data, that determination will be made based upon the data that needs to be collected today to complete that three-week period.”

While ICU capacity continues to be near-zero in both Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley regions, part of the formula used to decide what happens next is a model projecting capacity four weeks into the future. The Greater Sacramento area will likely find out next week if its stay-at-home order will be lifted while a decision on the order for the Bay Area is likely to come in two weeks.

3:40 p.m.: More California hospitals postpone services, surgeries

California hospitals are facing increasingly difficult decisions about which services to postpone amid a crushing load of coronavirus patients, according to the Associated Press. 

ICU beds are full in Southern California and the Central Valley, and hospitals anywhere are nearing capacity. Gov. Gavin Newsom has yet to threaten the type of elective surgeries shutdown that occurred in March and April.

Some health care professionals and patient advocates are trying to quell any possibility of an elective surgery shutdown, writing in a letter that such an action would lead to bad patient outcomes. In the meantime, hospitals are doing what they can to create space. 

At UC San Diego Health, COVID-19 has delayed treatment for more than 30 patients in the last three months, mostly orthopedic procedures.

3:32 p.m.: Coronavirus disruptions impacts Nevada homeless population, rise in deaths

Problems magnified by the coronavirus are being blamed for a rise in deaths in Las Vegas’ homeless population, according to the Associated Press.

While the virus itself isn’t all to blame for the rise in deaths, local public health officials and homeless advocates told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the number of homeless fatalities is up 16% compared to last year.

The COVID-19 positivity rate among the homeless community is about the same as the general population. Yet, Clark County reported 189 homeless people died from Jan. 1 to Dec. 4. That amounts to a rate of 35 deaths for every 1,000, which is six more than in 2019.

9:34 a.m.: Nearly 1.3 million people traveled through airports on Sunday

Nearly 1.3 million people went through U.S. airports on Sunday, the highest level of air travel in more than nine months, according to the Associated Press.

Despite fear and alerts from health officials that travel will lead to more cases of COVID-19, the Transportation Security Administration said it screened 1,284,599 people on Sunday — the highest total since March 15. When compared to the same day last year, Sunday’s total is roughly half of the 2,575,985 processed in 2019.

More than 10 million people have traveled by air since Dec. 18, including six days, with at least 1 million people getting screened. While figures on road trips aren’t available, AAA predicted that about 85 million Americans would travel during the Christmas holiday season, most of them by car

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said that this level of travel could lead to a further increase in COVID-19 cases nationwide. He said crowded airports make it difficult to maintain social distance and that holiday gatherings often combine people from different households.

“As much as we advise against it, nonetheless, it happens,” he said on CNN. “And that’s one of the reasons why we’re concerned about that being a real risk situation for the spread of infection.”

New coronavirus cases have been surging for about two months, and there have been more than 330,000 reported deaths from the virus.

9:19 a.m.: California plans to use retired judges to address criminal trial backlog

California criminal courts have been backlogged for years, but with the COVID-19 pandemic putting more trials and hearings on hold, the problem has become significantly worse.

California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakayue said trial delays are not fair to victims, witnesses or defendants. When the current stay-at-home orders expire, Cantil-Sakayue will order an expedited use of retired judges through the Temporary Assigned Judges program to speed up delays.

Normally, there’s a 90-day waiting period after retirement before a judge can hear a case, but with this program, judges who are signed up with the program will be immediately available on day one of their retirement. The order will also waive the yearly and lifetime caps on the number of cases retired judges can hear.

Sunday, December 27

10:19 a.m.: California hospitals brace for holiday coronavirus cases

Hospitals in central and Southern California are quickly running out of intensive care unit beds for coronavirus patients.

State officials are poised to extend the strictest stay-at-home orders there as conditions worsen before the post-holiday surge hits. The situation is already dire, and the worst is expected to come in the next few weeks after Christmas and New Year’s travelers return home.

California hit 2 million confirmed coronavirus cases on Christmas Eve, becoming the first state to reach the grim milestone.

State stay-at-home orders for the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California are set to expire Monday but Gov. Gavin Newsom has signaled they would not be allowed to lapse.

—Associated Press

Saturday, December 26

10:10 a.m.: California hospitals delay surgeries amid virus surge

California hospitals are facing increasingly difficult decisions about which services to postpone amid a crushing load of coronavirus patients.

Intensive-care beds are full in Southern California and the Central Valley, and hospitals elsewhere are nearing capacity.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has yet to threaten the type of shutdown of elective surgeries that occurred in March and April. But some health care professionals and patient advocates are trying to quell any possibility, telling him in a letter it will it lead to bad outcomes for patients.

In the meantime, hospitals are doing what they can to create space. At UC San Diego Health, COVID-19 has delayed treatment for more than 30 patients in the last three months, mostly orthopedic procedures.

—Associated Press

Thursday, December 24

12:25 p.m.: California hits 0% ICU capacity statewide

On Christmas Eve, California reported 0% ICU capacity statewide as COVID-19 cases continue to surge and hospitals strain under the pressure.

This does not mean that there are no ICU beds available in the state, as the Bay Area region had about 9% availability Thursday, the Greater Sacramento region had about 15% and the Northern California region had about 28%. 

Rather, this means that the situation is so dire in the other two regions, Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley, that it has driven the state’s aggregate availability to zero, according to the Sacramento Bee. Both of those regions had 0% ICU capacity as of Thursday.

Last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom accurately projected that the state could reach this point by Christmas Eve.

10:22 a.m.: California becomes first state to hit 2 million COVID-19 cases

California has reached a grim milestone, becoming the first state to report 2 million confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, the Associated Press reports.

Johns Hopkins University reported Thursday that California, the nation’s most populated state, has recorded 2,010,157 infections since January. More than 23,000 Californians have died from the virus.

This comes as California’s medical system strains under a COVID-19 crisis health officials say stems from Thanksgiving gatherings. More than 18,000 people are hospitalized and many of the state’s ICUs are full. Pleas for residents to avoid gatherings for Christmas and New Year’s were especially desperate in Southern California, where Los Angeles County is leading the surge.

Wednesday, December 23

2:22 p.m.: California health care system in the throes of COVID-19 crisis from holiday gatherings

California’s health care system is in the thick of a coronavirus surge stemming from ill-advised Thanksgiving gatherings, according to the Associated Press.

Top executives from the state’s largest hospital systems put out a “clarion and desperate call” for residents to avoid a holiday repeat they said would overwhelm California’s medical system. Exhausted staff have been pressed into services outside their regular duties, and are now also attending to COVID-19-positive patients in hallways, conference rooms, and even a gift shop.

Officials from Kaiser Permanente, Dignity Health and Sutter Health offered what they called a “prescription” for Californians to slow the virus spread with a marketing effort saying, “Don’t share your air.”

11:02 a.m.: COVID-19 vaccination begins at California medical prison facility

COVID-19 vaccinations have started at a California medical prison facility, according to the Associated Press.

65 people at the California Health Care Facility, Stockton, including workers and people incarcerated, volunteered to receive the vaccine yesterday.

Union official Steve Crouch told the Los Angeles Times that the employees who received vaccinations are in high-risk positions dealing with potentially infected inmates. At least 150 of the 2,400 people incarcerated at the facility are COVID-19 positive.

Vaccinations for employees and high-risk people who are incarcerated are also expected to get underway at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla and the California Medical Facility, Vacaville.

11:00 a.m.: Unemployment claims go down, but remain historically high

While the number of people seeking unemployment benefits in the U.S. fell by 89,000 last week, the total is still a historic 803,000 people seeing aid, according to the Associated Press.

The high numbers point to how the job market remains under stress nine months after the coronavirus outbreak sent the U.S. economy into a recession and caused millions of layoffs. Many employers are still cutting jobs as the pandemic tightens business restrictions nationwide, leading many consumers to stay home.

Before the virus struck, applications for unemployment benefits typically numbered around 225,000 a week before shooting up to 6.9 million in early spring when various shutdown measures flattened the economy. The rate has since come down but remains at historically high levels.

Tuesday, December 22

4:19 p.m.: Record 500 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Sacramento County 

There were 500 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Sacramento County as of Monday, a new record for the county. Of those patients, 104 were in the intensive care unit.

The county also hit a record for COVID-19-positive patients in the ICU this weekend with 110 on Saturday.

The previous high point for hospitalizations in the county before this latest surge was 281 on July 30.

Sacramento County is one of 13 counties in California’s Greater Sacramento region, which as a whole remains under a state-mandated stay-at-home order. The region will be under the order at least until Jan. 1, and at that point will need to have an ICU capacity of 15% or more projected out four weeks. Current capacity in the region is 15.7%

11:41 a.m.: California could face disastrous COVID-19 explosion after winter holiday celebrations

If Californians don’t change plans for winter holiday celebrations, the state could face a disastrous explosion of coronavirus cases, the Associated Press reports.

State officials are warning residents that it is too risky to celebrate the holidays as they normally would. Gov. Gavin Newsom says a projection model shows California could have 100,000 coronavirus hospitalizations in the next month, and the state has recorded a half-million cases in the last two weeks.

Hospitals in urban centers and rural areas alike are already overwhelmed with the current surge, including a medical center in Imperial County along the Mexican border that warned Monday that it is fast running out of patient beds.

11:37 a.m.: California desperate for nurses, doctors as pandemic stretches hospitals

California is desperately seeking nurses, doctors and other medical staff as the surge in COVID-19 cases pushes hospitals to a breaking point, according to the Associated Press.

As many of California’s hospitals are running out of capacity to treat the most severe cases of the virus, the state has brought in and deployed hundreds of temporary medical staff members. But it needs a total of 3,000, and some may even come from as far away as Australia.

California’s staffing shortage comes as COVID-19 cases are surging across the U.S., which has led to a nationwide demand for contracted medical workers, particularly nurses with critical care expertise.

11:33 a.m.: Nevada encourages tourism, tells visitors to wear masks

Despite a weekend where Nevada passed the 200,000 known COVID-19 infections mark, state officials are emphasizing that Nevada is open for visitors with precautions in place, the Associated Press reports.

Nevada’s state tourism promotions chief said that Las Vegas casinos are “open within the limits of the capacity determined by the governor” on Monday. Gov. Steve Sisolak has set occupancy limits for restaurants, bars, casino floors, gyms and many other businesses.

New Year’s fireworks that typically draw 300,000 people to Las Vegas’ resort-lined strip have been cancelled, but tourism officials say properties are taking precautions “to make New Year’s Eve safe and memorable.”

8:53 a.m. California stay-at-home orders likely to be extended

As Californians hunker down amid escalating COVID-19 hospitalizations, state leaders hinted that regional stay-at-home orders are unlikely to be lifted right away. 

“At the moment, our projections don’t show that any of the regions that could first exit the regional stay-at-home order will likely do that,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s top health official, said Monday.

The regional stay-at-home orders were aimed at slowing the spread of the virus and were enacted when a region’s ICU capacity dipped below 15%. The restrictions are in effect for at least three weeks once triggered.

Based on that timeline, the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California regions would be eligible to see their orders lifted Dec. 28 and Dec. 30 respectively, but both regions currently have 0% ICU capacity and are using surge beds.

Ghaly says removal of the stay-at-home order will be based on a number of factors, including a projection of ICU capacity four weeks out.

The Greater Sacramento region is eligible to exit its stay-at-home order Jan. 1, depending on those factors.

Monday, December 21

3:41 p.m.: Explosion of cases threatens to overwhelm emergency care system

Medical staffing is stretched increasingly thin as California hospitals scramble to find beds for patients amid an explosion of coronavirus cases, according to the Associated Press.

Huge numbers of new cases over the last six weeks have the state’s death toll climbing ever higher, with another 161 deaths reported Sunday.

The Southern California and San Joaquin Valley regions have exhausted their intensive care unit capacity, and some hospitals have begun using “surge” space. 

A nurse in hard-hit Los Angeles County estimates she’s been averaging less than 10 minutes of care per patient every hour.

2:55 p.m.: Biden gets COVID-19 vaccine on live television

President-elect Joe Biden received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on live television in an effort to convince Americans the shot is safe, according to the Associated Press.

The president-elect took a dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Monday at a hospital not far from his Delaware home, hours after his wife, Jill Biden, did the same. Both got their immunizations on the same day that a second vaccine, produced by Moderna, will start being rolled out across the nation.

Moderna’s vaccine joins Pfizer’s in the nation’s arsenal against the COVID-19 pandemic, which has now killed more than 317,000 people in the U.S. and upended life around the globe.

2:40 p.m.: People and workers in the prison system bring COVID-19 spikes when moved to new facilities

In prisons around the country, COVID-19 outbreaks have followed inmates and prison workers when they are shuffled between facilities.

According to a survey conducted by The Marshall Project and The Associated Press, nearly all of the 25 state prison systems and the federal Bureau of Prisons that responded to the survey said they have reduced or limited the number of people and workers they have moved in the system due to the pandemic.

Out of those 25, eight states halted the practice except in special circumstances, keeping reductions in line with medical guidelines. However, most of those states lifted their restrictions by September, and few prison systems heeded the earlier lessons as the pandemic worsened this winter, worrying families of prisons and correctional officers.

2:37 p.m.: City of Sacramento could benefit from extended CARES Act deadline

The House of Representatives is set to vote today on a new federal stimulus package that could extend the deadline for when the city of Sacramento needs to use all of its $89.7 million in CARES Act funds. 

The city had taken a different approach to allocating money than its county counterparts. Rather than funnel it into paying for county pandemic services, the city tried to allocate the money to go towards underserved communities and nonprofits that could help with COVID-19 relief. 

The federal deadline for cities to use this money is currently Dec. 30, a deadline the city was tracking closely. In a recent update from the city manager’s office, the city was expecting about $1 million of its CARES Act funds would need to be re-allocated in order to be spent in time.

City spokesperson Tim Swanson said the possibility of a new deadline would be helpful. 

“The city welcomes the possibility of an extension of the CARES Act deadlines and has started the process of evaluating its programs to see how they may be affected by a change in timeline,” Swanson said. 

A small disappointment for the city is the fact that the new federal stimulus will not include any further relief for cities. Earlier this year, the city was able to present a balanced budget despite a $90 million shortfall due to the coronavirus pandemic. But Mayor Darrell Steinberg says budget cuts might be more likely for next year if no relief comes. 

“I am concerned, and we will know within the next few weeks exactly what our revenue picture is,” Steinberg said. “There is no question that the tax base has taken a major hit because so many people are out of work and so many businesses have had to close.” 

But he said that he remains optimistic that there will be another stimulus package before next year’s budget is completed, and hopes it can allow the city to stave off any painful cuts. Sacramento fared relatively well in its budget predictions for this year, with no major program cuts. 

Sunday, December 20

12:23 p.m.: Hospitals try to keep pace, stores close during virus surge

An enormous crush of coronavirus cases in the last six weeks has California’s death toll spiraling ever higher.

Another 272 fatalities were reported Saturday and in the last week nearly 1,600 people died.

Hospitals are battling to find beds to house patients amid fears the explosion of coronavirus cases will exhaust staffing resources.

All of Southern California and the 12-county San Joaquin Valley to the north have exhausted their regular intensive care unit capacity, and some hospitals have begun using “surge” space.

On Saturday night, Apple Inc. announced that it is temporarily closing all 53 of its stores in California because of the coronavirus outbreak.

—Associated Press

Saturday, December 19

10:20 a.m.: California getting fewer vaccines than expected in second shipment

California is one of the many states that will get 40 percent fewer doses than originally planned in its next round of coronavirus vaccine shipments. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom confirmed the state’s second allotment of Pfizer vaccines was trimmed by 160,000 doses. He said federal officials broke the news to him on Thursday.

“Unfortunately, it went from 393,000 down to 233,025 that is anticipated as our second allocation. That’s unfortunate, but it’s good news, nonetheless,” Newsom said.

At least a dozen other states have reported similar slashes to their vaccine allotments.

Newsom says Pfizer officials told him they have enough doses to meet the original order, but haven’t received federal authorization to ship them.

10:15 a.m.: Stress, canceled dentist appointments contributing to dental issues like grinding teeth

The pandemic is producing a lot of side effects including, it appears, grinding teeth. And some people are seeing the effects of stress contributing to a host of dental problems.

Many dentists have seen people put off regular dental appointments for cleaning and other dental procedures. That in itself has consequences. But stress too plays a factor, says Stockton Dentist Dr. Edward Graham, who says he’s seeing the signs of it increasingly in his patients’ teeth.

“Due to the pandemic, social unrest, and also due to the election,” Graham said. “We think that’s kind of the perfect trifecta which is causing people a lot of stress. Stress in humans is normally manifested by clenching and grinding.”

Graham says most of that occurs at night but even commuters trapped in traffic can also exhibit that same behavior.

He points out that people over 40 are most at risk especially those who have had root canals, old fillings, and cracked teeth.

Friday, December 18

5:30 p.m.: California Legislature delays return over COVID-19 cases

California’s lawmakers have delayed their return to the state Capitol because of the coronavirus. 

Lawmakers were scheduled to return to Sacramento on Jan. 4. But Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins say the date is now Jan. 11. Rendon and Atkins say they made the decision to keep people safe as the number of new coronavirus cases in California is at an all-time high. 

The decision came after multiple people who work in the Capitol tested positive for COVID-19 in recent weeks. The Legislature had two coronavirus delays during the session that adjourned in August.

3:42 p.m.: California hospitals start buckling under ICU capacity

Hospitals across California have all but run out of intensive care beds for COVID-19 patients, according to the Associated Press.

Ambulances are backing up outside emergency rooms, and tents for triaging the sick are going up. The state has emerged as the latest epicenter of the U.S. outbreak. On Thursday, the state reported a staggering 52,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day — about equal to what the entire U.S. was averaging in mid-October — and a one-day record of 379 deaths.

More than 16,000 people are in the hospital with COVID-19, which is more than triple the number from one month earlier.

3:41 p.m.: State and federal prisoners test 4 times higher for COVID-19 than general population

One in every five people in state and federal prisons in the U.S. has tested positive for COVID-19, a rate more than four times as high as the general population.

According to data collected by the Associated Press and The Marshall Project, more than half of people who are incarcerated have been infected in some states. While the first Americans have begun receiving the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine, at least 275,000 people in the system have been infected, and more than 1,700 have died.

New cases in prisons this week reached their highest level since testing began in the spring, far outstripping previous peaks in April and August.

9:45 a.m.: Unemployment taxpayer fraud has grown, according to new findings

What has been called by prosecutors, “the biggest taxpayer fraud scheme in California’s history” just got even bigger.

Two new indictments are connecting another person who is incarcerated and a former state worker to the massive unemployment fraud scheme. The charges are part of a broader investigation of fraud in the state’s distribution of more than $110 billion in unemployment benefits since the pandemic began.

Officials have identified one person currently at the women’s Chowchilla Prison that worked with a partner to gather names and information to collect benefits for other people in the prison facility. In a second alleged scheme, a Roseville woman — who previously worked for the state’s Employee Development Department — allegedly filed about 100 claims in other people’s names.

One of these filings was on behalf of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, according to the Los Angeles Times. This is the false filing that triggered an investigation.

U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott said that money should have gone to people who lost work because of the pandemic. Officials have also noted that EDD sent upwards of $1 billion in benefits to people in prisons and jails.

“These unemployment insurance benefits that were intended for Californians hit hardest by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic shutdown have become the target of what may prove to be to be the largest fraud scheme ever perpetrated against the taxpayers in California history,” Scott said.

9:27 a.m.: Large Stockton fitness company declares bankruptcy due to COVID-19

In-Shape Health Clubs, one of California’s largest fitness companies, recently filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.

At the start of 2020, In-Shape boasted 64 locations, 3,000 employees and members from across the state, but company CEO Francesca Schuler said the pandemic and state restrictions have reduced their business down to 16 outdoor fitness centers and 600 workers.

“This year has been heartbreaking in so many ways,” Schuler said. “The impact on our team, our business, our communities has been devastating.”

But, Schuler has said that the Stockton-based company has a comeback planned.

“Chapter 11 certainly does not mean we are going out of business. We’re not going anywhere. In-Shape is here to stay,” Schuler said. “Filing for Chapter 11 will enable us to restructure the company and reemerge as a stronger company.”

In the restructuring plans, the company expects to close about 20 clubs with 45 locations reopening.

9:16 a.m.: Fewer people traveling for holidays, but many will still cross state lines

The latest numbers from research firm GasBuddy show that nearly 40% of travelers in California, Oregon and Washington plan on crossing state lines this holiday season.

“Though we are likely to see far fewer Americans on the road, still a third of Americans [are] planning to travel for the holidays,” said GasBuddy writer Patrick DeHaan.

About 80% of them say that gas prices won’t affect their travel plans, either. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have asked Americans to stay home and celebrate the winter holidays with the people within their household, especially as COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths continue to increase.

9:12 a.m.: UC Davis gets surprise extra COVID-19 doses

Hospitals are finding a bonus in their Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine shipments: extra doses.

UC Davis Health CEO Dr. David Lubarsky said what was supposed to be only 5,000 doses turned out to be about 6,000 because the vials were overfilled.

“This is like gold. And you might say, why do they do that? Why do they overfill the dose?” Lubarsky said on CapRadio’s Insight. “For a really good reason. If you spill a drop, you would have then wasted a full dose. So, what they do here is they assume there’s a little bit of waste, and they give you a little leeway.”

He said between the overfilling of the Pfizer vials and next week’s Moderna vaccine arrival, he’s hopeful all front-line healthcare workers and first responders will have their first doses by the end of the year.

Thursday, December 17

5 p.m.: Southern California hits 0% ICU capacity

Southern California intensive care unit beds are now at 0% percent availability as California’s COVID-19 surge continues to worsen.   

Officials point out that the number varies as patients are released or transferred and new ones admitted.  However, this latest news continues the downward trend in available ICU beds, which yesterday, stood at 0.5%. 

California is opening temporary field hospitals to help with overflow as people who would normally be in ICU are being placed in non-intensive care hospital beds.

4:25 p.m.: State Capitol sees COVID-19 jump

California’s Capitol is seeing a jump in COVID-19 cases less than two weeks into session. 

State Senate and Assembly employees have received more than half-a-dozen memos about workers in the Capitol testing positive for COVID-19.  Last week the Senate sent one every day. 

The two chambers could not immediately confirm the total number of COVID-19 cases since the start of session last Monday. 

Infected employees include workers with the Department of General Services, a CHP officer and at least one person in the Assembly.

Both houses are instructing everyone to work remotely if possible, unless their duties absolutely require them to be at the Capitol. Lawmakers are set to reconvene on Jan. 4.

4:14 p.m.: Sacramento County hires acting health services director

Sacramento County has hired a temporary replacement for health services director Dr. Peter Beilenson, who recently announced he will be stepping down on Dec. 22.

Jim Hunt will step into Beilenson’s role on Dec. 21. Hunt was the county Director of Health and Human Services from 1997-2006 and has filled a number of other county roles in social services, administration and workers’ compensation. 

County spokesperson Kim Nava says Hunt is retired from the county and will not be pursuing the permanent job.

Leaders from several grassroots groups, including People’s Budget Sacramento and Decarcerate Sacramento, have called on the county for transparency around the position, and asked officials to keep equity and inclusion at the forefront during the hiring process.

Some health care providers who work with diverse communities have recommended the next health services director be a person of color. Hunt himself is white.

2:46 p.m.: FDA authorizes Moderna vaccine for emergency use

In a 20-0 vote, with one absentia, a panel of Food and Drug Administration advisers recommended that the developing Moderna COVID-19 vaccine be authorized for emergency use in adults during the pandemic, according to NPR.

The panel had to answer the question: Do the benefits of the Moderna vaccine outweigh its risks for use in people 18 years and older? The answer was yes.

The FDA typically follows its expert advisers’ advice, meaning this could become the second COVID-19 vaccine approved in the U.S.

A quick FDA decision is expected, given the state of the pandemic. Studies show that the Moderna formulation is 94% effective at preventing COVID-19, and an FDA determination found that there are no specific safety concerns that would stand in the way.

Most of the common side effects include injection site pain, fatigue, headache and muscle pain. This authorization follows the FDA’s recent approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine last Friday, a day after the same panel voted for it.

10:20 a.m.: Debunked COVID-19 myths survive online, despite fact-checking

Panic from the coronavirus caused a tidal wave of misinformation about COVID-19 as the myths passed from screen to screen and phone to phone around the world.

According to the Associated Press, public health officials, fact-checkers, and doctors have tried to quash hundreds of rumors, including speculation that the virus was created in a lab and the myriad of hoax cures floating around.

But with the U.S., England and Canada now administering vaccines to millions of people, many falsehoods are seeing a resurgence online. Experts fear this could contribute to hesitancy in taking the vaccine.

A survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research conducted earlier this month showed that only half of Americans said they were willing to get the vaccine.

9:55 a.m.: Sacramento County reallocates millions of federal COVID-19 relief dollars to law enforcement

Sacramento County supervisors voted Wednesday to reallocate nearly $50 million in unspent federal coronavirus stimulus money from health services to law enforcement.

The decision was controversial, but county leadership said it had to make the move before the federal dollars expire at the end of December. The county said public health will eventually get the money back through the general fund, and that this reallocation allows the department more time to spend the stimulus funds.

Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye said she trusts the county’s interim CEO Ann Edwards on this decision.

“It’s different this time in that she has been very open with us in wanting to get our feedback, wanting to know what our needs are, and will continue to give updates on the budget and our needs,” Kasirye said.

The county made a similar decision months ago, drawing the ire of community members who said the sheriff’s payroll shouldn’t be the focus during a pandemic.

Wednesday, December 16

5:40 p.m.: California nurses upset over state change to ICU staffing rules

An order from Gov. Gavin Newsom to create additional intensive care unit capacity is drawing opposition from nurses.

The move comes as hospitals grapple with surging COVID-19 cases by increasing the number of patients nurses can treat.

“In the aggregate, staffing is our number one challenge,” Newsom said at a press conference Tuesday. “We need to temporarily, very short-term temporarily look a little different in terms of our staffing needs.”

Under the change, the ICU patient-to-nurse ratio goes from 2-to-1 to 3-to-1. The temporary order also loosens ratios in other areas of the hospital.

California nurses say the change hurts patient care and hospitals should have been better prepared.

“They are utilizing COVID and their lack of a surge plan even though we had all this warning to attack the ratio,” Sutter Roseville nurse Renee Altaffer said. She  joined the California Nurses Association and National Nurses United at a press conference Tuesday.

How much additional ICU capacity created by the rule change depends on how individuals hospitals utilize the new leniency. California nurses say they’ll be keeping an eye on how the change impacts patients.

2:03 p.m.: Nevada business owners happy after governor does not overly extend coronavirus-related business restrictions

Gov. Steve Sisolak’s decision to extend the state’s coronavirus-related business restrictions until at least Jan. 15 has left some local business leaders mildly optimistic, according to the Associated Press.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Tuesday that most business leaders said they are grateful that the governor did not add restrictions in his announcement. Sisolak extended orders on Sunday to limit capacity for businesses in the state at 25%, while retail and grocery stores will continue to restrict capacity to 50%.

Latin Chamber of Commerce President Peter Guzman said the fact the governor did not implement harsher restrictions gives businesses a “fighting chance to keep their doors open.”

2:01 p.m.: Federal court sides with two Nevada churches on coronavirus-related restrictions

A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of two Nevada churches that say the state’s COVID-19 restrictions violate their First Amendment rights, according to the Associated Press.

On Tuesday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed Tuesday with the churches in Las Vegas and rural Lyon County that the state’s limits are unconstitutional because they place harsher attendance limits on religious gatherings than casinos and other secular businesses.

The appellate court reversed earlier federal court rulings that upheld Nevada’s hard cap on the size of worship services. It instructed the district judges to preliminarily enjoin Nevada from imposing attendance limits for churches stricter than those for other gatherings or businesses.

11:12 a.m.: Congressional negotiators near possible agreement on COVID-19 relief bill

Top congressional leaders appear to be on the brink of a long-delayed COVID-19 aid package, according to the Associated Press.

A deal could come as early as Wednesday on legislation that would extend help to individuals and businesses and ship coronavirus vaccines to millions across the country. Negotiators are working on a $900 billion package that would revive subsidies for businesses walloped by the pandemic, help distribute new coronavirus vaccines, fund schools, and renew soon-to-expire jobless benefits.

Congressional leaders are also looking to include new direct payments of about $600 to most Americans. There’s intense pressure for a deal to come through, especially since unemployment benefits run out on Dec. 26 for more than 19 million people. Many businesses are barely hanging on after nine months of the pandemic.

11:07 a.m.: People who are incarcerated face the biggest COVID-19 risks, but not at top of vaccination lists

Prisons nationwide have been hit hard by COVID-19, but most states don’t have the people in them at the front of the line for initial vaccinations, according to the Associated Press.

Their families are urging state officials to consider them alongside other people in group housing where outbreaks have been common. Other people bristle at the idea of those who break the law getting the vaccine before people with health risks and others vulnerable to the virus.

In California, the state’s correction agency rolled out an early release program back in July. However, many of those selected were previously scheduled to be released in months anyway, leaving many with high-risk conditions still in the system.

As of Nov. 25, only 62 of the people released under the program had solely medical conditions as a measure of being selected. The rest of the 7,596 people had less than a year left to serve and may or may not have had medical issues.

Tuesday, December 15

6:11 p.m.: First Sacramento-area Health Care Workers Get Coronavirus Vaccine

The first Sacramento-region health care workers received their initial dose of the coronavirus vaccine Tuesday, part of the more than 300,000 doses being distributed throughout California this week.

Clinical nurse Eva Teniola was the first worker at UC Davis Medical Center to receive the vaccine. The Elk Grove resident said she didn’t know she would be the first person at the hospital to get the vaccine. 

“It feels like there’s possibly an end to what’s going on and I feel very brave doing this and helping other people,” she said.

Eva Teniola , UC Davis Medical Center Emergency Department Registered Nurse, is the first person to be inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine by Heather Donaldson, a Registered Nurse with UC Davis Medical Center, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020 Hector Amezcua, Pool / AP Photo

Teniola said the past few weeks have been difficult for her and her colleagues and that she can see burnout in their faces from the emotional stress of dealing with the virus.

“People die alone, and it’s so sad,” she said. “As nurses, they don’t have family because it’s strictly no visitors, so we have to stay with them.”

No more than a third of workers in a department will be vaccinated at any given time, and the hospital is trying to schedule people to get the vaccine before they have a scheduled day off in case they experience side effects. Teniola was starting a planned vacation this week.

The hospital plans to give out all 4,875 doses over the next six days, according to Dr. David Lubarsky, the chief executive officer for UC Davis Health. The hospital is expecting more shipments of the Pfizer vaccine within three weeks to give everyone the necessary second dose. The hospital is also expecting to receive shipments of the Moderna vaccine by Monday.

5:40 p.m.: Additional doses of coronavirus vaccine coming sooner than expected 

The vaccination of Californians against the Coronavirus continues. Governor Gavin Newsom said additional doses of the vaccine are coming sooner than expected

Newsom said that’s on top of the 327,000 doses already in the state and the 672,000 doses of the vaccine from drugmaker Moderna that have been promised. The additional supply, the governor said, makes 2.1 million doses by the end of the year a realistic target.

He said workgroups are about to begin the process of determining Phase-1-B — the second group of Californians who will get the coronavirus vaccine. The initial group includes an estimated  3.1 million front-line healthcare workers, as well as residents and staff of long-term care facilities. 

Newsom said 8 million Californians will be in Phase-1-B and the workgroup’s first deliberation will be live-streamed tomorrow. The governor said the decisions will be ruled by equity and the process will be transparent.

5:35 p.m.: Leading cause of death in San Joaquin County is COVID-19, says new study

A new study shows that the leading cause of death this year in San Joaquin County is COVID-19. The county has reported more than 32,000 cases of people infected with 537 deaths linked to COVID.

Scientist Chuck Davis with Bayesiant studies statistical data to show the spread and the effect of the pandemic. Davis found that COVID-19 deaths were at 8% and that was more than fatalities caused by heart disease, Alzheimer’s, or homicides.

He pointed out that the flu also claims lives but it’s no comparison to COVID-19. 

“What we have found in the county looking at the death records is 58.3 times more deadly than the flu,” he said. 

Even with the vaccine rolling out, Davis said, it will not be an overnight solution and we can expect to see deaths at the same rate or higher for the next three months.

 

10:01 a.m.: Pandemic backlash jeopardizes COVID-19 response as public health leaders resign

An investigation between the Associated Press and Kaiser Health News has found that at least 181 public health leaders in 38 states have resigned, retired or been fired since the start of the pandemic in the U.S.

The investigation shows that at the same time, lawmakers in 24 states have crafted legislation to weaken public health powers. Many public health officials said they can’t do their jobs when their political leaders undermine them.

The public health departures signify an enormous brain drain just as the country begins to roll out the largest vaccination campaign in its history and faces what is expected to be the worst months of the pandemic.

In Sacramento County, Health Services Director Dr. Peter Beilenson resigned earlier this month. Placer County’s public health director resigned in September after the county Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to terminate the local health emergency regarding COVID-19.

Monday, December 14

5:20 p.m.: Vaccinations against COVID-19 begin in California

Vaccinations against COVID-19 have begun in California amid a huge surge in infections and hospitalizations. 

Intensive care unit nurse Helen Cordova received a shot of the Pfizer vaccine Monday at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center. Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted that Cordova was one of the first Californians to be vaccinated.  

 

 

The first shipments of the Pfizer vaccine left Michigan early Sunday for 145 distribution centers nationwide. California’s initial batch was scheduled to total 325,000 doses. The vaccine was sent to hospitals and other sites across the country that can store it at extremely low temperatures — about 94 degrees below zero.

5:17 p.m.: Santa Clara County COVID-19 outbreak tied to you basketball program in Placer County

A Placer County youth basketball program has been linked to a coronavirus outbreak affecting more than 90 people in multiple counties, according to the Santa Clara County Public Health Department.

The basketball program for middle- and high-school-aged players was violating local and state orders for youth sports at the time. On Dec. 11, county health officials found 77 positive cases associated with the outbreak in Santa Clara, with 17 cases in other counties.

The affected teams traveled from Santa Clara County to the tournament that ran from Nov. 7 – 8, in Placer County. Thirty-three of the 37 players and all three coaches from Santa Clara County teams ended up testing positive for the virus. 

The tournament took place indoors and players were often in close contact, despite both state and local health orders prohibiting youth teams from competing indoors without masks and social distancing.

The California Department of Public Health has started an investigation on the tournament operator. The youth program also did not report some of their initial positive cases to the CDPH in a timely matter, delaying the department’s ability to respond and avoid widespread transmission.

“If Californians do not stay home as much as possible, our hospitals will overflow in a matter of days,” said Acting State Health Officer Erica Pan in a Santa Clara County press release. “This outbreak is an example of people engaging in activities that put their friends and loved ones at great risk of serious illness and death, which we are seeing statewide. We ask that everyone take seriously their responsibility to protect the entire community.”

12:16 p.m.: Sacramento will not conduct the 2021 homeless count due to pandemic

Sacramento is joining a list of large California cities skipping out on next year’s Point in Time homeless count, following cities like Los Angeles, Fresno and San Bernardino.

The biannual PIT count is a snapshot of the people experiencing homelessness on any given night in Sacramento County. The county has written that the count won’t be happening this year due to the risk of collecting data during the pandemic.

“Ultimately [Sacramento Steps Forward] staff, researchers and the [Sacramento City and County Continuum of Care] determined that safety is the most important consideration to protect both our unhoused community members and our volunteers,” Sacramento Steps Forward wrote in a FAQ.

While the PIT count is held every two years, SSF said that the county has approved a plan to figure out the feasibility of doing the count in 2022 instead.

12:01 p.m.: Washoe County School District extends online learning

A Northern Nevada school district will extend remote instruction for middle and high school students until Jan. 19, two weeks later than initially planned.

The state also granted the Washoe County school board a waiver to hire substitute teachers who have just a high school diploma to fill pandemic-related employment gaps. Superintendent Kristen McNeill said both the district and the state will vet the substitutes.

“They must apply for licensure through the Nevada Department of Education as well as be hired within the Washoe County School District and follow all protocols, including fingerprinting and a background check,” McNeill said.

She also said that the district needs to build testing capacity and train more contact tracers before students can return to in-person learning. When they eventually go back to class, they’ll be under a hybrid approach that combines part-time online learning with in-person instruction.

Sunday, December 13

2:07 p.m.: Group of western states health experts confirms safety, efficacy of Pfizer vaccine

A workgroup of public health experts from California, Washington, Oregon and Nevada says it has confirmed the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective.

The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup formed in October to independently review the FDA’s actions related to COVID-19 vaccines. On Sunday, the group provided its confirmation to the governors of the four states, according to a press release from California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office.

“Our Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup has worked concurrently with the federal process to review and assess available data, and examine the federal review processes regarding the safety and efficacy of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine,” Newsom said in a statement. “This morning, the Workgroup recommended the Pfizer vaccine as safe for public use. With shipments of the vaccine soon on their way to California, we are working hand-in-hand with local public health officials to get the vaccine out to the first phase of recipients.”

The group will continue to evaluate other COVID-19 vaccines after they are approved by the FDA.

Saturday, December 12

2:55 p.m.: San Joaquin Valley region at 0% ICU capacity, state says

The San Joaquin Valley region is at 0% ICU capacity, according to numbers updated Saturday by the California Department of Public Health.

The region, which encompasses 12 counties, has been below the 15% ICU capacity threshold since last weekend, when it and Southern California were the first regions put under the state’s new stay-at-home order. It’s the first region to hit 0% reported capacity.

It would be eligible to exit the order on Dec. 28 if capacity were to rise to 15% or above. 

Current ICU capacity in the other regions is as follows: 

Bay Area: 17.6%
Greater Sacramento Region: 12.7%
Northern California: 27.4%
Southern California: 5.3%

11:31 a.m.: UC Davis Health among first CA hospitals to receive vaccine

California hospitals could begin receiving the Pfizer vaccine as soon as Monday.  

UC Davis Health says it will be among at least seven hospitals in the state that will divide the first allotment.  

The California Department of Public Health chose the hospitals for their storage capability (the Pfizer vaccine requires extreme cold), the highest-risk health care population and their ability to distribute the vaccine when wider distribution is possible.  

For now, UC Davis Medical Center says a limited number of its staffers will be among the first to get the vaccine.

Friday, December 11

3:11 p.m.: Americans are paying the price for Thanksgiving gatherings, travel

Some Americans are now falling sick with COVID-19 after celebrating Thanksgiving with people outside their households, according to the Associated Press.

Health officials are now warning people not to make the same mistake during this month’s numerous holiday celebrations. The coronavirus was already raging across the nation before Thanksgiving, and it has only picked up steam since.

In the U.S., deaths have climbed to almost 2m260 per day, on average, about equal to the peak seen in mid-April, with a daily death total rivaling the Pearl Harbor attack.

New cases regularly climb past 200,000 a day based on a two-week rolling average, with a 16% increase from the day before Thanksgiving.

Contact tracers and emergency room doctors are repeatedly hearing from new coronavirus patients that they socialized during the Thanksgiving holiday with people outside their households. The next round of festivities could yield even more cases.

“The social and economic impact of the pandemic is enormous and growing. No vaccine can undo the damage that has already been done.” — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, speaking Friday as the world faces its biggest recession in eight decades amid a rise in extreme poverty and a threat of famine.

2:46 p.m.: Nurses, doctors, health care workers demoralized as virus surges in US

Doctors and nurses around the U.S. are becoming exhausted and demoralized as they struggle to cope with a record-breaking surge of COVID-19 patients that is overwhelming hospitals and prompting governors to clamp back down to contain the virus.

According to the Associated Press, a record of more than 107,000 people nationwide were in the hospital with COVID-19 on Thursday. More than 290,000 Americans have died of the virus.

Before the pandemic, Kiersten Henry, an ICU nurse practitioner at MedStar Montgomery Medical Center in Olney, Maryland said she used to care for two patients per shift, but now she regularly cares for four to five people.

And although concerns remain about getting enough beds, masks, and other equipment, many frontline health workers are most worried about staff shortages. A nurse practitioner says that nurses are the most scarce of all, as reported by the AP.

Correction: A previous version of this post mistated the number of Americans killed in Vietnam. The reference has been removed.

2:16 p.m.: Health officials urging hospitals in Orange County to stop elective surgeries due to pandemic crisis

A health official in Orange County is urging hospitals to cancel elective surgeries and implement plans for an onslaught of COVID-19 patients, according to the Associated Press.

Intensive care units are filling up statewide amid spiking virus cases. Orange County Health Official Dr. Carl Schultz said ambulances have been waiting for hours to unload patients because the county’s emergency rooms are so congested and backed up.

With the state’s hospitalizations already at record levels, Schultz urged hospitals to begin expanding capacity immediately. Hospitalizations are already at record levels, leaving less than 1,500 of the 7,800 total ICU beds available. A hospital in Imperial County has put beds under a tent in a parking lot for non-COVID patients.

9:09 a.m.: Sacramento and 13 other counties now under stay-at-home orders

The Greater Sacramento region has finally gone under the new stay-at-home regional orders. Thirteen counties within the region will now face new restrictions — covering a wide area as both urban and rural hospitals feel the strain of the steep climb in COVID-19 cases.

Yuba and Sutter counties share just one hospital between the two, and the ICU capacity at Adventist Health and Rideout is at or near full capacity due to the surge. Yuba County spokesperson Rachel Rosenbaum said the ICU strain isn’t just attributed to a matter of available beds.

“It’s not an issue of facilities because we could stand up multiple facilities,” Rosenbaum said. “It’s staffing that’s an issue. So, unfortunately, our plans, our previous plans for surge capacity are no longer feasible.”

California is now divided into five regional segments under the state’s latest stay-at-home criteria. Three of those, Greater Sacramento, Southern California, and San Joaquin Valley, all have ICU capacities under 15%, the trigger point for enacting the new stay-at-home restrictions. The California Department of Public Health estimated that the Sacramento Region’s ICU capacity was 13.3% on Thursday, while San Joaquin Valley was at 1.9%.

Thursday, December 10

3:16 p.m.: California unemployment claims still a ‘black hole’

Two California lawmakers from opposing political parties say the beleaguered Employment Development Department is failing to stem the unemployment benefits scam, according to the Associated Press.

The scam has already exceeded $2 billion, while the EDD has yet to reduce a frustrating backlog. Others reported fewer problems.

Democratic Assemblyperson Cottie Petrie-Norris and Republican Assemblyperson Jim Patterson said that the EDD’s new ID.me verification system is failing. Both said residents unemployed during the pandemic continue to fall into a “black hole” where they can’t get benefits or learn why.

The applications backlog has grown again in recent weeks and may face more strain with new stay-at-home orders affecting nonessential employees in most of California.

3:14 p.m.: Nevada superintendent wants to develop criteria to reopen schools

Nevada Superintendent Jhone Ebert is urging state leaders to develop specific criteria to help guide county decisions about reopening classrooms shuttered due to COVID-19.

According to the Associated Press, Ebert recently told a state task force that she’s convinced that in-person teaching is not a significant contributor to coronavirus spread. She’s concerned about disparities in academic achievement between higher-income and lower-income students taught strictly through distance learning.

Ebert said data increasingly shows the best way to protect teachers and students is not to shut down but focus on measures to keep everyone safe is not to shut down, but instead, focus on efforts to keep everyone safe in classrooms.

Several states, including California and Oregon, have adopted metrics for reopening schools.

3:12 p.m.: Gov. Newsom under new scrutiny due to large PPP loan

Companies affiliated with Gov. Gavin Newsom received nearly $3 million in loans designed to help small businesses survive the pandemic, according to the Associated Press.

These companies received more than eight times the amount of loans reported initially, as new information from the federal government shows. The governor put his business holdings into a blind trust before he took office, and so would not have participated in the loan decision.

However, the disclosure comes at a time when he is already battling criticism that he is elitist, while Newsom has said that he is a proud small businessman and entrepreneur.

Nine businesses tied to Newsom’s PlumpJack Group split the nearly $2.9 million in loans. The watchdog group Project On Government Oversight said it was a surprisingly large loan.

Wednesday, December 9

3:09 p.m: US court of appeals panel sympathetic to Nevada churches

A three-member U.S. appeals court panel appears to consider arguments by lawyers for two Nevada churches fighting COVID-19 restrictions, according to the Associated Press.

The two churches argue that state COVID-19 restrictions have been treating churches differently from casinos and other secular businesses, violating their First Amendment rights. The 9th Circuit panel in San Francisco heard arguments Tuesday from lawyers for the churches that want the appellate court to reverse earlier district court rulings.

The previous rulings focused on upholding the hard attendance caps Nevada’s governor had set on the size of indoor worship services. The churches and their lawyers said that churches should be held to the same standards that allow casinos, bars, restaurants, and others to operate based on a percentage of their capacity, not a hard attendance cap.

3:05 p.m.: Rose Parade canceled this year, will be replaced with TV special

There won’t be thousands of people watching flower-laden floats roll through the streets of Pasadena on New Years’ Day, according to the Associated Press.

However, the show must go on, so Sheryl Crow was selected to lead a long list of performers and other celebrity guests who will appear in a Jan. 1 television special replacing the 132nd Rose Parade, which was canceled earlier due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Tournament of Roses said the special will air on ABC, NBC, Hallmark Channel, Univision, RFD-TV and KTLA-Los Angeles. The organizers said performances were filmed at locations around the country to limit travel and ensure safety for the performers and crew alike.

3:03 p.m.: Only half of Americans say they will get the COVID-19 vaccine, a poll says

A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that only about half of U.S. adults are ready to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Even as the county begins to frantically prepare for months of vaccinations to hopefully end the pandemic, roughly a quarter of Americans say they aren’t sure if they want to get vaccinated when their turn comes. Another quarter of adults said they’re only sure if they will receive the shot. 

The Food and Drug Administration is poised to decide whether to allow emergency use of two vaccine candidates.

9:50 a.m.: California revises outdoor playground guidance under stay-at-home order

When California announced a new regional stay-at-home order last week, playgrounds were listed as one of the things that needed to close when a region’s intensive care unit capacity dropped below 15%

But after pushback from parents and Legislators, , the state quietly revised their guidance and decided to allow them to stay open Wednesday. The guidance now says that playgrounds located on school grounds that remain open for in-person and not accessible by the public may remain open.

They must follow the state’s guidelines for schools and school-based programs.

Tuesday, December 8

3:02 p.m.: Top state health official says COVID-19 cases expected to grow

California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said that coronavirus cases in the state are expected to continue to climb, according to the Associated Press.

Ghaly said at a press conference on Tuesday that everyday activities now carry a much greater risk of infection. Because of this, he urged residents to stay home whenever possible. The warning came as California authorities sent a cell phone emergency alert to two major regions of the state to tell millions of people that the virus is spreading rapidly.

The cell phone blast to the state-designated 11-county Southern California region and 12-county San Joaquin Valley region was sent by the Office of Emergency Services. Both regions triggered increased restrictions this week after ICU capacity dropped.

2:55 p.m.: ‘Super-spreader’ party in Los Angeles broken up, 158 people arrested

Officials say Los Angeles County deputies arrested nearly 160 people at an illegal “super-spreader” party over the weekend, according to the Associated Press.

Many of the attendees were not wearing masks despite surging coronavirus cases in the area. Authorities announced on Tuesday that the party in Palmdale resulted in the arrests of 158 people, 35 of whom were underaged.

Deputies found six weapons at the home and were able to rescue a 17-year-old human trafficking victim. The local sheriff said his department is tracking other underground parties in the area, which typically happen weekly and could also become super-spreader events and contribute more to rising cases. KTTV Fox 11 first reported on the party and arrests.

2:29 p.m.: Possible Sacramento County Public Health fine tabled

The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors tabled a controversial ordinance on Tuesday, according to the Folsom Chamber of Commerce.

The ordinance would have fined businesses between $250 to $10,000 a day for failure to comply with COVID-19 public safety orders. According to the Sacramento Bee, the ordinance was planned to outline six factors that would have triggered if and when a business would have been fined.

10:52 a.m.: No need to wipe down groceries or other packages because of COVID-19

AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin

If you’re worried about the coronavirus on your groceries or other packages, experts say to keep the risk in perspective.

According to the Associated Press, the virus mainly spreads through the respiratory droplets people spray when talking, coughing or sneezing — it’s why health experts stress the importance of wearing masks and social distancing.

Tests finding the virus on surfaces might just be detecting traces of it, not the actual live virus that’s capable of infecting people. Those early studies that found that the virus could linger on surfaces for days were conducted under laboratory conditions, not real-life conditions, where numerous ever-changing variables would affect the results.

So if you have good handwashing practices, experts say wiping down groceries isn’t necessary for most people.

10:28 a.m.: FDA posts positive review of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

U.S. health regulators have posted a positive review of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine as they near a decision on whether to allow the use of the shot, according to the Associated Press.

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration posted their review online, which offered the world the first detailed look at the evidence behind the shot co-developed with German pharmaceutical company BioNTech.

FDA scientists said the shots worked well in older adults, a key group. The FDA review comes before a Thursday meeting where a panel of independent experts will scrutinize the data and vote on whether to recommend using the vaccine on the American population.

A decision to authorize the vaccine is expected within days.

Monday, December 7

5:33 p.m.: Sacramento County to consider fines for businesses violating COVID-19 orders

Sacramento County residents and businesses who violate COVID-19 public health orders could soon face fines.

County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye said on CapRadio’s Insight that an ordinance being voted on by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday would only affect repeat offenders who blatantly disregard orders. 

“It’s not for us to go out and willy-nilly dish out citations to every single business,” Kasirye said. “And we know that, for the most part, most businesses have been complying. So it’s going to be used in very selective situations.”

Under the ordinance, businesses could be fined between $250 and $10,000. Residents would face penalties between $25 and $500.

Kasirye said intensive care units in the region are expected to fall below 15% capacity soon, which would trigger the Newsom administration’s latest stay-at-home order.   

“From what the state has told us, we anticipate that probably within this week or early next week that we will hit the threshold,” she said.

She said she understands this isn’t easy on people, especially the owners of small businesses forced to close while others stay open.

“I hear those complaints and I do hear the pain also but the goal is for us to reduce the movement of people and gathering of people and that’s why you’re seeing the orders that we have.”

The stay-at-home order allows retailers to operate at 20% capacity but closes indoor and outdoor restaurant dining and hair and nail salons.

5:29 p.m.: As virus slams rural California, many still pan restrictions

Restaurant owner Brenda Luntey shrugs off the new stay-at-home orders California has announced to stem a surge in COVID-19 cases. She is keeping her restaurant in rural Shasta County open, despite orders to shut indoor dining. 

“This is my first episode of civil disobedience in my entire life. My whole family is in law enforcement. I’m a follow-the-rules kind of person,” Luntey, owner of San Francisco Deli, told the Associated Press.

Hers is one of several rural California counties that appeared to dodge the virus in the spring but are now seeing some of the most alarming spikes in COVID-19 infections statewide. Each day brings dire new records in hospitalizations and deaths. 

But outside California’s big cities, the backlash against tough new restrictions is growing, especially in conservative areas.

11:13 a.m.: California unveils new contact tracing app

California is rolling out CA Notify, a new contact tracing smartphone app, according to the Associated Press.

The app will alert people if they have spent time near someone who tests positive for COVID-19. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the tool on Monday as cases and hospitalizations soar throughout the state. Use of the tool is voluntary, and people can opt in to use it starting Thursday.

Officials say the tool doesn’t track people’s identities or locations. It uses Bluetooth wireless signals to detect when two phones are within six feet of each other for at least 15 minutes.

Sixteen other states plus Guam and Washington, D.C. have made the system co-created by Apple and Google available, but most residents still aren’t using it.

11:22 a.m: Inaugural LA Bowl game postponed until 2021

The inaugural LA Bowl football game has been postponed until 2021 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to the Associated Press.

The formerly scheduled Dec. 30 matchup at SoFi Stadium was set to pair the Mountain West champion with a team from the Pac-12.

The LA Bowl is the 11th bowl game to be postponed this year. That leaves 33 bowl games currently scheduled, plus the College Football Playoff championship games.

11:11 a.m.: California lawmakers will meet in-person to start new legislative session

California state lawmakers will gather on Monday to swear-in new members and start planning for the new legislative session.

Members of the state Assembly will meet in a physically distanced way at the Golden 1 Center in downtown Sacramento for the swearing-in ceremony. Sacramento County health officials ordered the Assembly to use the NBA arena instead of swearing-in smaller groups in the chamber. This allows the attendees to have the space needed for safe social distancing.

The Sacramento Kings provided the stadium for use, free-of-charge, to the lawmakers through an agreement, as reviewed by CapRadio.

Unlike previous years, lawmakers are not allowed any family or friends to attend the swearing-in, and they are providing alternative options for Assembly members who cannot participate in-person or are uncomfortable doing so.

State senators will take the oath of office in the Senate chambers at the Capitol. Some will also have the option to be sworn-in remotely from their district offices, according to the Senate President Pro Tem’s office.

9:57 a.m.: ICU capacity in Greater Sacramento region rises to 20.3%

ICU capacity in the Greater Sacramento region rose to 20.3% Monday, up from 18.2% on Sunday, according to numbers released by the California Department of Public Health.

ICU capacity also increased in the Bay Area, Northern California and Southern California regions, while capacity in the San Joaquin Valley region fell slightly. 

Two of the state’s five designated regions, the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California, have ICU capacities below 15% and are under the new state-mandated regional stay-at-home order. The Greater Sacramento Region is the closest of the remaining three to falling under the order.

Here’s where the ICU capacities stand by region as of 9:15 a.m. Monday:

  • Northern California: 28.2%
  • Bay Area: 25.7%
  • Greater Sacramento: 20.3%
  • San Joaquin Valley: 6.3%
  • Southern California: 10.9%

Sunday, December 6

2:08 p.m.: ICU capacity in Greater Sacramento region drops to 18.2%

ICU capacity in the Greater Sacramento region has dropped to 18.2%, according to numbers released Sunday by the California Department of Public Health

A day earlier, on Saturday, the state reported capacity for the region at 21.4%. 

Under California’s new regional stay-at-home order, when a region’s ICU capacity drops below 15%, counties in the region must put in place new restrictions that limit business and activities. 

Two of the five state-designated regions — the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California — have already been put under the new order after ICU capacities dropped below 15% on Saturday. They have until 11:59 p.m. Sunday to implement the restrictions.

Here’s where ICU capacities stand by region as of 2 p.m. Sunday:

Northern California: 26.5%
Bay Area: 24.1%
Greater Sacramento: 18.2%
San Joaquin Valley: 6.6%
Southern California:10.3%

The numbers reported Sunday show increased capacity for the Bay Area and Northern California over Saturday, while ICU availability in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California dropped further.

Saturday, December 5

1:46 p.m.: San Joaquin Valley, Southern California first regions under new stay-at-home order

With intensive care capacity dropping sharply, counties in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California regions will shut down certain businesses and activities starting Sunday to curb the spread of COVID-19 under the state’s new regional stay-at-home order.

On Saturday, the California Department of Public Health announced that ICU capacity had dropped below 15% in the two regions, triggering the new order that went into effect Saturday at 12:59 p.m. Counties in the two regions have to put the new restrictions in place starting at noon on Sunday.

“We know that people are tired of the stringent measures, but they are the only weapons we have to combat the virus,” Dr. Maggie Park, San Joaquin County Public Health Officer, wrote in a statement. “Now, more than ever, we need San Joaquin Valley residents to step up and take these actions seriously – wash hands, wear a face covering, limit gatherings, get tested and socially distance.” 

According to state health officials, only 8.6% of ICU beds remain open and staffed in the San Joaquin Valley region, with 12.5% remaining in Southern California.

Here are the counties affected:

  • San Joaquin Valley: Calaveras, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, San Benito, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tulare, Tuolumne
  • Southern California: Imperial, Inyo, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura

Read more here.

Friday, December 4

10:44 p.m.: San Joaquin Valley, Southern California ICU capacities drop below 15% 

Intensive care unit capacity in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California regions have dropped below the 15% threshold that would trigger California’s new stay-at-home order, according to figures released by state health officials late Friday.

According to the California Department of Public Health, only 14.1% of ICU beds remain open and staffed in the San Joaquin Valley region, and 13.1% in Southern California.

  • Northern California: 20.9%
  • Bay Area: 21.2%
  • Greater Sacramento: 21.4%
  • San Joaquin Valley: 14.1%
  • Southern California: 13.1%

The new order goes into effect Saturday at 12:59 p.m., and counties in regions that fall below the threshold have 24 hours to implement the new restrictions. Those include limiting restaurants to takeout only and shutting down businesses such as salons, barbershops and movie theaters.

Retail stores and shopping centers are permitted to remain open indoors at 20% capacity, and restaurants can stay open for takeout only. Outdoor recreation facilities can also stay open with modifications, and entertainment production, including professional sports, can operate without a live audience.

Residents in counties affected by the order can still go to the doctor, buy groceries, go on a hike or worship outdoors. K-12 schools that are already open can continue operating indoors as no more than 20% capacity.

Find a full list of what the order covers and a map of the regions here.

 

5:42 p.m.: Yolo, 5 Bay Area counties implement new restrictions before state stay-at-home order

The health officers in Yolo County and five San Francisco Bay Area counties have issued new restrictions as the number of virus cases surge and hospitals fill. 

Yolo County will implement some new restrictions starting Sunday, such as limiting retail stories to 20% capacity, though not as strict as the state stay-at-home order. New stay-at-home orders will go into effect in most of the Bay Area counties at 10 p.m. Sunday. 

“By taking action now rather than waiting until regional ICU beds are in critically short supply, Yolo County aims to lower case rates and lessen the strain on the local hospital system,” a Yolo County press release reads.

Impacted activities and industries in the new Yolo County Health Officer Order include:

  • Gatherings: Gatherings of any size are strongly discouraged. Only outdoor gatherings are permitted. 
  • Restaurants and wineries: may remain open outdoors but those seated at a single table are limited to household members only. Tables must be a minimum of 6 feet apart.
  • Indoor retail establishments: may remain open but must operate at 20% capacity with access strictly metered to ensure compliance. This includes all retail, including grocery stores. 
  • Gyms and fitness centers: may remain open outdoors only but face coverings are required at all times with the exception of aquatic activities such as swimming. 
  • Sports (including youth, adult recreational, collegiate and professional): limited to drills and conditioning only, with physical distancing, and only outdoors. All competitive games, scrimmages, and similar activities that do not allow for physical distancing are not allowed.

In the Bay Area, the new restrictions were imposed in San Francisco and four other counties. 

Most of those counties have not yet reached Gov. Gavin Newsom’s threshold requiring the shutdown when hospitals fill 85% of ICU beds. It comes the same day the state recorded another daily record number of cases, with 22,018, and hospitalizations topped 9,000 for the first time.

—Associated Press

3:21 p.m.: Over 160,000 COVID-19 vaccines earmarked for Nevada

Federal officials have allocated 164,150 COVID-19 vaccines to be distributed in Nevada this month, according to the Associated Press.

State officials plan to distribute the initial doses to frontline healthcare workers and nursing home residents and staff. More than 173,000 people are designated as part of the first distribution tier, forcing the state to decide how to prioritize among healthcare workers as not everyone in the first tier will be able to get a vaccine in the first round.

Officials said their plan to decide who to prioritize in high-risk environments is still being determined. They’re discussing whether “essential retail workers” include casino employees that the state has said are key to its economic recovery.

3:00 p.m.: Nevada experiences deadliest day of the pandemic so far

Nevada has reported 48 new deaths from the coronavirus, which makes Thursday the deadliest day for the state since the onset of the pandemic, according to the Associated Press.

State officials say almost 160,000 state residents have contracted COVID-19, and 2,249 have died. Case and death totals continue to rise more than a week after new restrictions were implemented as part of Nevada’s statewide activity pause.

During the three-week pause period, the number of customers businesses can accept has been reduced to 25% capacity. As hospitals continue to face strain due to the COVID-19 crisis, some have had to adapt to the challenges, including setting up remote care centers. Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno is treating patients in an auxiliary unit in the parking garage.

2:18 p.m.: California church sees a Supreme Court victory

Lawyers for Harvest International Ministry, a Pasadena-based church with more than 160 congregations across California, said they would seek an immediate court order on Thursday to allow indoor worship after the Supreme Court told a lower federal court to reexamine state coronavirus restrictions on church services, according to the Associated Press.

Attorney Mathew Staver, who represents the church, said he expected a swift order from a Los Angeles federal judge clocking Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order to close most indoor worship in most counties. He said the high court’s actions would also lead other churches to challenge COVID-19 health orders.

Last week, the Supreme Court split 5-4 in holding that New York could not enforce certain limits on attendance at churches and synagogues.

UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh said court challenges by churches have had more success as the pandemic has worn on because they’ve been able to show they are subject to rules unequal to those faced by some nonessential businesses.

10:57 a.m.: New stay-at-home order will affect businesses like barbershops, hair salons

California’s new stay-at-home order would require barbershops, salons, and other businesses to close down yet again. State officials say it’s an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus at places where people are in close contact with each other.

Mario Cueva, who works at West Coast Barbers in Woodland, said that he’s starting to get used to all of the shutdowns, especially since the state’s new order could mean that his workplace would have to shut down for the third time this year.

“Usually, they said third time is a charm when they get it done,” Cueva said. “I don’t know. I guess we’re going to find out.”

While he said that he’s used to it, he doesn’t believe another shutdown will be easy.

“Besides the holidays, people still gotta pay their rent,” Cueva said. “People got car payments. People got kids. You know, it’s hard to do when you ain’t got a job, you ain’t got money coming in.”

On Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said that closing salons, barbershops and all restaurant dining is necessary because people are around each other for extended periods of time.

Some groups have said that these types of businesses aren’t high risk for COVID-19 transmission, but state officials said that’s no longer the case with elevated levels of the virus.

Regardless, West Coast Barbers customer Isaac Salcido said he just hopes the shutdown won’t last too long.

“Hopefully, by the time they open back up, I can text my boy Mario and come get fixed up again,” Salcido said.

Thursday, December 3

6:47 p.m.: California church sees victory in order from high court

Lawyers for a church with more than 160 congregations across California say they will seek an immediate court order allowing indoor worship after the Supreme Court told a lower federal court to reexamine state coronavirus restrictions on church services.

The victory Thursday for Pasadena-based Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry follows a recent high court ruling in favor of churches and synagogues in New York.

The Supreme Court order came the day after restaurants gained some traction in their challenge to a Los Angeles County ban on outdoor dining. The cases represent rare gains in legal challenges of COVID-19 regulations.

—Associated Press

3:27 p.m.: California’s new stay-at-home order will be tied to ICU capacity

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have now passed the peaks set this summer, so Gov. Gavin Newsom introduced a new regional stay-at-home order on Thursday based on intensive care unit capacity to try and mitigate the pandemic’s spread during the winter holidays.

The new public health order will kick into effect once a region of California has less than 15% of their ICU capacity remaining. The state has been broken up into five regions: Bay Area, Greater Sacramento, Northern California, San Joaquin Valley, Southern California. See a map here.

None of the regions currently meet that criteria, but some are expected to hit it early next week. Regions affected by the order will need to comply with restrictions for at least three weeks.

Some of the operations that will be halted during that period are:

  • Indoor and outdoor playgrounds
  • Hair salons and barbershops
  • Personal care services
  • Cardrooms and satellite wagering
  • Casinos, and more

Retail stores and shopping centers are permitted to remain open indoors at 20% capacity, while restaurants can only stay open for takeout. Some outdoor recreation facilities can also remain open with modifications, along with entertainment production and professional sports, but without a live audience.

The new order comes as more than 8,500 Californians are hospitalized with COVID-19, more than any other time in the pandemic. At least 2,000 of those are in intensive care units.

12:01 p.m: Santa Clauses across the nation are donning masks, face shields

Santa Claus adjusts his protective face shield between visits from children and their families at Bass Pro Shops, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020, in MiamiAP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Santa Claus usually may wear a red hat, a red cap, and now this holiday season, a mask too. Portraying the jolly man in the coronavirus age requires many precautions. While being older than 60 and fuller might make for a perfect Santa, it could also signal the kinds of underlying physical conditions that could lead to severe virus complications.

According to the Associated Press, many Santas this year will be wearing masks and face shields, sitting behind glass or visiting with children online. One thing few are doing: putting children on their laps for face-to-face conversations.

The pandemic is hurting many Santas — not only financially with reduced performances, but emotionally. The people who portray St. Nick say they like bringing joy to children, and that’s much harder to do from a distance.

11:49 a.m.: Facebook says it will start removing false COVID-19 vaccine claims

In Facebook’s latest move to counter a tidal wave of coronavirus-related online misinformation, they plan to start removing some of those false claims, according to the Associated Press.

On Thursday, the social network said that it will take down any Facebook or Instagram posts with false information about the vaccines that have been debunked by public health experts. The U.S. tech giant is taking action now as the first COVID-19 vaccines are set to be rolled out globally.

Facebook said it’s applying a policy to remove virus misinformation that could lead to “imminent physical harm,” so posts that run afoul of the new policy could include phony claims about vaccine safety, efficacy, ingredients or side effects.

Wednesday, December 2

6:23 p.m.: California reports more than 20,000 virus cases in one day

California has broken the record for new coronavirus cases reported in a single day. 

The state reported 20,759 new cases on Wednesday, shattering the previous record of more than 18,350 set just last week. According to CalMatters, 8,517 Californians are hospitalized, nearly doubled the number who were two weeks ago.

The numbers reflect an alarming surge of new cases in the nation’s most populous state that has Gov. Gavin Newsom considering a new stay-at-home order during the crucial holiday shopping season. 

Newsom is still isolating in his Sacramento-area home after three of his children were exposed to the virus. He did not hold a news conference on Wednesday. But he said earlier in the week he was considering drastic measures.

11:22 a.m.: Outdoor dining still open in Pasadena

The city of Pasadena has kept outdoor dining open despite Los Angeles County recently restricting restaurants to takeout only, according to the Associated Press.

A surge of COVID-19 cases last week in the nation’s most populous county led to a three-week end to outdoor dining and a broader stay-home order that took effect Monday for every town and city in the county except for Pasadena and Long Beach. Both have their own public health departments and can set up their own rules.

Long Beach, however, has chosen to close their outdoor dining. While Pasadena, a city of 140,000 people, has followed the county’s lead with health directives, they decided to chart their own course and closely monitor their 600 restaurants, which their officials claim is a more aggressive approach.

“We literally have seen COVID cases in a large percentage of businesses across the city,” Pasadena spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said. “To single out restaurants was unfair.”

According to Derderian, Pasadena closed down seven restaurants after inspectors found safety and health violations like staff not wearing plastic shields or seating people indoors. All had been approved to reopen after correcting the errors.

Daily assessments of Pasadena’s virus situation eventually led to more restrictions on Tuesday, limiting gatherings to only people of the same household, which also applies to outdoor seating.

If the city doesn’t put a pause on their outdoor dining altogether, it could be forced to do so by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who suggested a more “drastic” stay-at-home order that could be in the works to help prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.

10:05 a.m.: CDC advises staying home for upcoming winter holidays

U.S health officials have said that staying home for the upcoming winter holidays is the best way to stay safe and protect others, according to the Associated Press.

But for those who choose to ignore that advice and meet with family or friends in different households, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggests getting COVID-19 testing before and after trips and gatherings is an option.

Many Americans didn’t follow CDC guidance again traveling over Thanksgiving, so the agency announced the testing option during a Wednesday news briefing. They said even if only a few people become infected while traveling, that could still result in hundreds of thousands of new infections.

The advice also included reducing non-essential activities for a full week after travel or for 10 days if not tested afterward.

9:59 a.m.: While Gov. Gavin Newsom hints at another statewide stay-at-home order, some local officials are unsure of plans

Intensive care units at California hospitals are filling up, so on Monday, Gov. Newsom warned that another stay-at-home order could be coming within days. But local officials say they are still in the dark about his plans.

California’s health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said he’s been in constant contact with local health officers and hospital administrators. Still, officials from at least five counties in the most restrictive reopening tier said they haven’t heard of any further lockdown plans from the state yet.

Several county spokespersons said they would likely support new state guidance, but for now, local health officials  — like all Californians — are standing by, watching the numbers and awaiting the possibility of a future shutdown.

Tuesday, December 1

5:52 p.m.: California paid $400 million in jobless benefits to inmates

The scale of the unemployment fraud involving California state prison inmates has grown to a staggering $400 million. That’s nearly triple the amount prosecutors first disclosed last week. 

The new number comes from the California Employment Development Department comparing its unemployment claims data to inmates’ Social Security numbers. In all, records show about 31,000 inmates applied for benefits. About 20,800 were paid about $400 million. The rest were unpaid claims totaling about $80 million. 

The new number is higher because it includes the base unemployment benefit and additional aid Congress approved during the pandemic. Gov. Gavin Newsom said he is “deeply alarmed.” He said bad actors abused the system.

5:48 p.m.: Elected officials dine out after urging others to stay home

San Francisco’s mayor dined at a posh Napa Valley restaurant the day after California Gov. Gavin Newsom was there. San Jose’s mayor went to his parents’ house for Thanksgiving. And a Los Angeles County supervisor dined outdoors after voting to ban outdoor dining there. 

They were all on the hot seat Tuesday after reports that they violated restrictions aimed at controlling the spread of the coronavirus — or at least the spirit of the rules. 

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that San Francisco Mayor London Breed attended a party with seven others at the French Laundry on Nov. 7. San Jose’s mayor apologized for a family gathering with five different households. California’s rules limit gatherings to three households.

Is shopping in stores safe during the pandemic?AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that shopping in crowded stores is a “higher risk” activity. People should limit their in-person shopping time — even at supermarkets.

Instead, the CDC recommends shopping online, visiting outdoor markets, or using curbside pickup, where workers bring orders outside to you. If you need to enter a store, instead go during off-hours when there are likely to be fewer people, generally early in the morning or later at night. Wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet away from others, and shop quickly.

2:14 p.m.: Health care workers, nursing home residents should get vaccine priority, panel recommends

An influential scientific panel has taken up one of the most pressing questions in the U.S. coronavirus epidemic: when the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine become available, who should be at the front of the line for shots?

According to the Associated Press, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted Tuesday to recommend a proposal that would prioritize health care workers and patients in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

NPR reports that these high priority groups could be fully vaccinated by early next year, if the FDA’s approval timeline doesn’t change from mid-December.

The two groups together represent around 23 million out of a total of 330 million American people.

Because supplies will be short during the first few weeks after vaccine authorization, healthcare and long-term care facilities will still need to make decisions on their own internal priority schedule for immunization.

Staff and residents at long-term care facilities make up only 6% of confirmed coronavirus cases, but make up about 40% of all of the COVID-19 deaths.

10:13 a.m.: Winter weather will make outdoor church services difficult for attendees

With the winter weather arriving soon, churchgoers might find attending outdoor services a little difficult, so Catholic Bishop Myron Cotta of the Stockton Diocese is asking community county leaders for an exemption to resume indoor services.

California health officials have been moving counties back into the purple tier, the most restrictive tier in the state’s COVID-19 reopening system.

The Stockton Diocese covers San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Calaveras, Tuolumne, Mono and Alpine counties. Both Mono and Alpine counties are in the red tier, so their church services can still be held indoors, but the other counties in the Stockton Diocese are all in the purple tier, where indoor worship is banned.

Chandler Marquez, communications director for the Stockton Diocese,  said that no COVID-19 outbreaks were attributed to church gatherings when indoor services were allowed since they followed some coronavirus safety measures.

“Temperatures were taken at the door; there’s also a log of people who come to indoor worship for contact tracing if needed,” Marquez said. “Wearing masks was mandatory, and the church building itself was sanitized between services.”

San Joaquin County Counsel Mark Myles says there’s not much wiggle room for the county in light of the state’s mandatory orders.

“We have an obligation to follow the directive of the state,” Myles said. “The county supervisors can’t override the public health orders of the state.”

Attorney Dean Broyles defended a Lodi church earlier this year when they attempted to defy the state’s orders and was shut down. He said the Supreme Court’s ruling on allowing indoor services in New York does not necessarily apply to California at this time, but future litigation could.

“If churches are meeting otherwise safely that the government can’t arbitrarily limit the number of people meeting in church,” Broyles said.

For the one and a half million Catholics in the diocese, worship will have to be outdoors or online for the immediate future.

Bishop Cotta can only ask his parishioners for their prayers.

“Brothers and sisters, this truly has been and continues to be a stressful and trying time for all of us,” Cotta said. “Pray for God’s mercy an end to this time of uncertainty, suffering, and loss.”

Tuesday, December 1

5:52 p.m.: California paid $400 million in jobless benefits to inmates

The scale of the unemployment fraud involving California state prison inmates has grown to a staggering $400 million. That’s nearly triple the amount prosecutors first disclosed last week. 

The new number comes from the California Employment Development Department comparing its unemployment claims data to inmates’ Social Security numbers. In all, records show about 31,000 inmates applied for benefits. About 20,800 were paid about $400 million. The rest were unpaid claims totaling about $80 million. 

The new number is higher because it includes the base unemployment benefit and additional aid Congress approved during the pandemic. Gov. Gavin Newsom said he is “deeply alarmed.” He said bad actors abused the system.

5:48 p.m.: Elected officials dine out after urging others to stay home

San Francisco’s mayor dined at a posh Napa Valley restaurant the day after California Gov. Gavin Newsom was there. San Jose’s mayor went to his parents’ house for Thanksgiving. And a Los Angeles County supervisor dined outdoors after voting to ban outdoor dining there. 

They were all on the hot seat Tuesday after reports that they violated restrictions aimed at controlling the spread of the coronavirus — or at least the spirit of the rules. 

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that San Francisco Mayor London Breed attended a party with seven others at the French Laundry on Nov. 7. San Jose’s mayor apologized for a family gathering with five different households. California’s rules limit gatherings to three households.

2:18 p.m.: CDC says to keep shopping trips short and quick to minimize contact with others

AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin

As the holiday season gets underway, health experts have said to avoid shopping in stores when possible, according to the Associated Press.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that shopping in crowded stores is a “higher risk” activity. People should limit their in-person shopping time — even at supermarkets.

Instead, the CDC recommends shopping online, visiting outdoor markets, or using curbside pickup, where workers bring orders outside to you. If you need to enter a store, instead go during off-hours when there are likely to be fewer people, generally early in the morning or later at night. Wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet away from others, and shop quickly.

2:14 p.m.: Health care workers, nursing home residents should get vaccine priority, panel recommends

An influential scientific panel has taken up one of the most pressing questions in the U.S. coronavirus epidemic: when the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine become available, who should be at the front of the line for shots?

According to the Associated Press, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted Tuesday to recommend a proposal that would prioritize health care workers and patients in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

NPR reports that these high priority groups could be fully vaccinated by early next year, if the FDA’s approval timeline doesn’t change from mid-December.

The two groups together represent around 23 million out of a total of 330 million American people.

Because supplies will be short during the first few weeks after vaccine authorization, healthcare and long-term care facilities will still need to make decisions on their own internal priority schedule for immunization.

Staff and residents at long-term care facilities make up only 6% of confirmed coronavirus cases, but make up about 40% of all of the COVID-19 deaths.

10:13 a.m.: Winter weather will make outdoor church services difficult for attendees

With the winter weather arriving soon, churchgoers might find attending outdoor services a little difficult, so Catholic Bishop Myron Cotta of the Stockton Diocese is asking community county leaders for an exemption to resume indoor services.

California health officials have been moving counties back into the purple tier, the most restrictive tier in the state’s COVID-19 reopening system.

The Stockton Diocese covers San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Calaveras, Tuolumne, Mono and Alpine counties. Both Mono and Alpine counties are in the red tier, so their church services can still be held indoors, but the other counties in the Stockton Diocese are all in the purple tier, where indoor worship is banned.

Chandler Marquez, communications director for the Stockton Diocese,  said that no COVID-19 outbreaks were attributed to church gatherings when indoor services were allowed since they followed some coronavirus safety measures.

“Temperatures were taken at the door; there’s also a log of people who come to indoor worship for contact tracing if needed,” Marquez said. “Wearing masks was mandatory, and the church building itself was sanitized between services.”

San Joaquin County Counsel Mark Myles says there’s not much wiggle room for the county in light of the state’s mandatory orders.

“We have an obligation to follow the directive of the state,” Myles said. “The county supervisors can’t override the public health orders of the state.”

Attorney Dean Broyles defended a Lodi church earlier this year when they attempted to defy the state’s orders and was shut down. He said the Supreme Court’s ruling on allowing indoor services in New York does not necessarily apply to California at this time, but future litigation could.

“If churches are meeting otherwise safely that the government can’t arbitrarily limit the number of people meeting in church,” Broyles said.

For the one and a half million Catholics in the diocese, worship will have to be outdoors or online for the immediate future.

Bishop Cotta can only ask his parishioners for their prayers.

“Brothers and sisters, this truly has been and continues to be a stressful and trying time for all of us,” Cotta said. “Pray for God’s mercy an end to this time of uncertainty, suffering, and loss.”



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