Find an updated count of COVID-19 cases in California and by county on our tracker here.
San Francisco Airport mandates all employees be vaccinated
San Francisco public defender sues county over delayed trials
President Joe Biden promises to donate more COVID-19 vaccines globally
Overwhelmed Shasta County hospitals are rationing care to non-COVID patients
California has lowest COVID-19 positivity rate in the country, but could see an increase this winter
COVID-19 By The Numbers
Wednesday, September 22
10:23 a.m.: San Francisco Airport mandates all employees be vaccinated
San Francisco is requiring all workers at San Francisco International Airport get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Associated Press.
Exempt employees must undergo weekly testing. The recently announced mandate applies to roughly 46,000 on-site personnel, including employees of contractors and retail tenants.
Mayor London Breed’s office said the mandate is the first for a U.S. airport and goes into effect immediately. Some airlines have already announced vaccination mandates for employees.
The city also requires its municipal workers to be inoculated. Hawaii requires workers at state facilities, including airports, to show proof of vaccination or provide weekly verification that they’ve been tested weekly.
9:52 a.m.: San Francisco public defender sues county over delayed trials
San Francisco’s public defender has sued the San Francisco Superior Court on behalf of nearly 400 people languishing in jail after being denied a speedy trial due to COVID-19 restrictions.
According to the Associated Press, the county’s public defender, Mano Raju, said he filed the lawsuit in the Superior Court against the court, its presiding judge and its CEO. The number of jailed people awaiting trial continues to grow.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports the suit says that by Aug. 30, the court had 388 cases still awaiting trial past the 60-day legal deadline. A court spokesperson said the court continues to give criminal trials “the highest priority.”
9:47 a.m.: President Joe Biden promises to donate more COVID-19 vaccines globally
President Joe Biden recently announced that the U.S. is doubling its purchase of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 shots to share with the world.
According to the Associated Press, at a virtual vaccine summit on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Biden embraced a goal of vaccinating 70% of the global population within the next year.
Biden also encouraged other well-off nations to do more to get the coronavirus under control around the world. World leaders, aid groups and global health organizations are growing increasingly vocal about the slow pace of global vaccinations and the inequity of shot access.
The U.S. purchase of another 500 million shots brings the total U.S. vaccination commitment to more than 1.1 billion doses.
Tuesday, September 21
11:31 a.m.: Overwhelmed Shasta County hospitals are rationing care to non-COVID patients
Shasta County hospitals are having difficulty keeping up with the rising number of COVID-19 cases. The local hospitals serve a number of other rural counties in the surrounding area, such as Siskiyou and Trinity counties.
Mercy Medical Center Chief Operating Officer Robert Folden says the increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations is impacting treatment for those with other conditions.
“We have many routine surgeries that we’re having to postpone, so part of the challenge as we go through this are for those people that have another medical condition that are having to postpone their care,” Folden said.
According to the Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency, 78 people in the county are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19, with 17 of them in the ICU.
10:06 a.m.: California has lowest COVID-19 positivity rate in the country, but could see an increase this winter
California currently has the lowest COVID-19 positivity rate in the country right now, according to the state’s COVID-19 tracking dashboard.
The state now has a 3.4% positivity rate, compared with the 7.1% positivity rate California had back in early August.
Dr. Dean Blumberg, Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, warns that while our positivity rate is low, it’s very possible it could spike back up again.
“We’re entering the winter, and this is a virus that is transmitted more in the winter, so we will probably have an increase in the rate in California starting sometime in November and December,” Blumberg said on CapRadio’s Insight.
Nationwide, the coronavirus has now killed approximately 675,000 people, just as many who died during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.
Experts say the virus may never entirely disappear and instead may become a seasonal bug as human immunity strengthens through vaccination and repeated infection.
One step to getting to that possible theoretical future includes vaccinations.
Pfizer announced on Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine works for children ages 5 to 11. The vaccine maker said it plans to seek authorization for that age group from the FDA.
“Generally, the turnaround time after submission to the FDA is about a month, so we could have the vaccine available sometime next month,” Blumberg said.
He said Pfizer studied a lower dose of its two-dose vaccine in more than 2,200 kindergartners and elementary school-aged kids.
“Children have different immune systems compared to adults, so they generally have a more robust immune response compared to adults,” Blumberg said. “So you want to make sure you get the dose correct. The dose that was found to be good for these children is a third of the dose given to adults.”
Vaccination outcomes for children came out just the same as in teenagers and adults. Pfizer still needs emergency-use authorization from the FDA before children can receive the shots.
10:01 a.m.: J&J booster vaccine prompts strong antibody response in patients, company says
Johnson and Johnson recently announced that a booster dose to its one-shot coronavirus vaccine provides a robust immune response months after people received the first dose, according to the Associated Press.
The company said that an extra dose — given two or six months after the initial shot — revved up protection. The results haven’t yet been published or vetted by other scientists.
The J&J vaccine was considered an essential tool in fighting the pandemic because it requires only one show, however, even as rollout began, the company was already running a global test of whether a two-dose course might be more effective.
Monday, September 20
10:35 a.m.: COVID-19 has killed as many Americans as the 1918 flu
COVID-19 has reached a grim milestone — the virus has now killed about as many Americans as the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, approximately 675,000.
And similar to the worldwide scourge of a century ago, the coronavirus may never entirely disappear. Instead, scientists hope the virus that causes COVID-19 becomes a mild seasonal bug as human immunity strengthens through vaccination and repeated infection, according to the Associated Press.
For now, the pandemic still has the U.S. and other parts of the world in its tight grip. U.S. deaths are running at over 1,900 a day on average, and the country’s overall toll has topped 673,000.
The 1918 flu pandemic killed 675,000 people in the U.S. when it had a population one-third of the size of what it is today.
10:17 a.m.: Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine works for children ages 5 to 11
Pfizer recently announced that its COVID-19 vaccine works for children ages 5 to 11 and that it plans to seek authorization for this age group soon in the U.S, Britain, and Europe, according to the Associated Press.
The vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech is already available for anyone 12 and older in the U.S., however many parents with younger children have been anxiously awaiting vaccinations for their families.
Pfizer studied a lower dose of its two-shot vaccine in more than 2,200 kindergartners and elementary school-aged kids. They ended up developing coronavirus-fighting antibody levels just as strong as teenagers and young adults.
9:55 a.m.: US to loosen foreign citizen travel restrictions into the country
The White House says President Joe Biden will be easing foreign travel restrictions for travelers to the country beginning in November, according to the Associated Press.
Foreign citizens will be allowed into the country by plane if they have proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test. The new rules will replace a hodgepodge of restrictions that had barred non-citizens who had been in certain countries in the prior 14 days from entering the U.S.
Families who have been separated by the travel restrictions for the past 18 months may be able to plan for long-awaited reunifications.
The new rules will require all foreign travelers flying to the U.S. to demonstrate proof of vaccination before boarding, as well as proof of a negative COVID-19 test within three days of flight.
Sunday, September 19
11:16 a.m.: San Joaquin Delta College mandates vaccinations for returning students
San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton is among the growing number of colleges mandating vaccinations for returning students. The growing number of COVID-19 cases prompted the change.
Some 18,000 students attend Delta College.
Returning students for the fall semester were offered incentives to get the vaccine including free textbooks, free parking, and the use of laptops.
Alex Breitler with Delta says the rising cases of COVID-19 in the past two months have prompted the school to require students to show proof of vaccination before registering for the spring semester for in-person instruction.
He says those unvaccinated students will still have opportunities for learning online.
“In the fall about 60% of our courses are online,” he said. “I’m not sure what the percentage will be in the spring, but safe to say, students who are not vaccinated will have many online courses to choose from in the spring as well. We want to make sure there’s a path forward for everyone.”
Breitler says students must submit proof of vaccination by October 15th to register for the spring semester.
10:47 a.m.: Stockton offers $40 million dollars to help low-income families pay past due rent and utilities
Although many are going back to work, the pandemic cost a lot of people lost jobs and wages.
The City of Stockton is offering $40 million dollars to help low-income families pay past due rent and utilities.
Stockton accepted 40 million dollars in state and federal funding to help renters who have fallen behind in their payments.
About half the money came in February, and the other half this August.
Connie Cochran with the city says, so far, Stockton has approved more than 3,500 applications. For example, a family of four making less than 59,000 annually would be eligible, she explains.
“And even if you are back to work, once you are behind, it takes time to recover,” said Cochran. “This program is to help with past due rent and utilities and some of the other costs related to renting.”
Cochran says people can go to the Stockton city website to apply online or contact the local organization El Concilio to sign up.
Only Stockton residents are eligible but people in other California communities can find rental help by Google searching “Housing Is Key”.
Saturday, September 18
10:36 a.m.: Only high-risk Americans and those 65+ should get Pfizer booster shot, says FDA advisors
Food and Drug Administration advisors voted 16-2 against approving Pfizer-BioNTech booster dose for people 16 years and older.
The panel then voted 18-0 in support of the FDA authorizing a booster shot of the vaccine for people 65 and older or at high risk of severe COVID-19.
The agency typically follows the advice of its advisory committees, but it isn’t required to.
Read more here.
Friday, September 17
10:50 a.m.: Biden administration hitting wall with COVID relief over lack of cooperation from states
President Joe Biden entered the White House promising to stop the twin health and economic crises caused by COVID-19, but $1.9 trillion and countless initiatives later, he’s hitting some roadblocks.
According to the Associated Press, the administration has to confront the limits of what Washington can achieve when some state and local governments are unable or simply unwilling to step up and protect their constituents.
Six months after Congress passed the massive rescue plan, administration records show that more than $550 billion has yet to be disbursed. The sum could help provide a key economic backstop as the coronavirus’ delta variant continues to pose an unyielding threat.
The lack of funds has led to frustration for groups such as renters awaiting their long-promised help. In some cases, testing and vaccines go unused, wasting investment and funding, despite mass outreach campaigns.
10:27 a.m.: Biden administration advisers are deciding on whether to administer COVID-19 booster shots
Government advisers are debating whether to recommend extra doses of the Pfizer vaccine, a key step toward the Biden administration’s plan to dispense COVID-19 booster shots to most Americans, according to the Associated Press.
Scientists inside and outside the U.S. government have been divided in recent days over the need for boosters and who should get them.
A panel of Food and Drug Administration advisers will vote Friday on the safety and effectiveness of boosters. If the FDA approves the extra doses a separate committee convened by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will debate who should get the booster shot and when.
10:13 a.m.: Many school districts still only providing minimal at-home education
As coronavirus outbreaks driven by the delta variant lead school districts around the U.S. to cycle between opening and closing, many children find themselves again doing at-home learning.
According to the Associated Press, some students are finding that they’re getting minimal schooling at home, despite the billions of dollars in federal money at their disposal to prepare for new outbreaks and develop a contingency plan.
Some governors, education departments, and local school boards have found themselves unprepared. Some school systems have had their hands tied by state laws or policies to keep students in classrooms and strongly discourage or restrict a return to remote learning.
Thursday, September 16
10:24 a.m.: Los Angeles County will soon require proof of vaccination for indoor bars, nightclubs and more
Public health officials in Los Angeles County will begin requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for patrons and workers at indoor bars, wineries, breweries, lounges, and nightclubs next month.
The new initiative in the nation’s most populous county begins on Oct. 7 with proof of at least one vaccine dose required, as reported by the Associated Press.
According to the county’s Department of Public Health, proof of full vaccination will be mandatory by Nov. 4. Health officials strongly recommend the same precautions for indoor restaurants but have not chosen to mandate proof of vaccination for them.
The new restrictions come ahead of the holiday season, which brought a massive surge to L.A. last year.
10:12 a.m.: No, kids won’t be harmed or get sick from wearing face masks
Experts say there’s no scientific evidence showing that masks cause harm to kids’ health despite claims to the contrary on social media and elsewhere, according to the Associated Press.
The unfounded claims started circulating just as virus outbreaks are hitting many reopened U.S. schools, particularly those without mask mandates. Among the baseless claims is that masks can cause unhealthy carbon dioxide levels and can sicken kids if they become moist with germs.
This isn’t true. Experts say cleaning masks regularly keeps them safe and clean. They also note that there’s strong evidence showing that masking children in school can reduce COVID-19 transmission to other kids and adults.
10:01 a.m.: As vaccine mandates pop up, religious exemption filings increase
Religious objections were once used only sparingly around the country to get exempted from various required vaccines, but they are becoming a much more widely used loophole against the COVID-19 shot.
According to the Associated Press, about 2,600 Los Angeles Police Department employees are citing religious objections to try and get out of the required COVID-19 vaccination. In Washington state, hundreds of state workers are seeking similar exemptions.
Exemptions are likely to grow following President Joe Biden’s sweeping new vaccine mandates covering more than 100 million Americans, including executive branch employees and workers at businesses with more than 100 people on the payroll.
The administration acknowledges that a small minority of Americans will use, and may seek to exploit, religious exemptions. However, they believe that even marginal improvements in vaccination rates will save lives.
It’s not yet clear how many federal employees have asked for a religious exemption, though union officials say there will be many requests. The Labor Department has said an accommodation could be denied if it causes an undue burden on the employer.
Wednesday, September 15
10:09 a.m.: President Biden meets with business leaders, CEOs, and more to discuss COVID-19 mandates
President Joe Biden has invited CEOs and business leaders to the White House to discuss COVID-19 mandates, according to the Associated Press.
Today’s meeting follows Biden’s announcement last week that the Labor Department is working to require that businesses with 100 or more employees order their workers to be fully vaccinated or submit a negative COVID-19 test at least weekly.
Biden said 100 million workers would be subject to the requirement. After he announced the mandate last week, his administration also took several other steps as a part of a new effort to curb the surging delta variant of the coronavirus.
9:53 a.m.: Census shows that government relief during COVID pandemic pulled millions out of poverty
Massive government relief passed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic moved millions of Americans out of poverty last year, even as the official poverty rate increased slightly, according to the latest Census Bureau report.
The Associated Press reports that the official poverty measure showed an increase of 1 percentage point in 2020, with 11.4% of Americans living in poverty, or more than 37 million people.
It was the first increase in poverty after five consecutive annual declines. However, the Census Bureau’s supplemental measure of poverty, which takes into account government benefit programs and stimulus payments, showed that the share of people in poverty dropped significantly after the aid was factored in.
9:41 a.m.: More than half of US states have cut the power of government to protect public health
A review of hundreds of pieces of legislation across the U.S. shows that Republican legislators in more than half of the states are taking away the powers state and local officials use to protect the public against infectious diseases.
According to the Associated Press, the review conducted by Kaiser Health News, or KHN, also found that in all 50 states, legislators have proposed bills to curb such public health powers since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
While some governors vetoed bills that passed, at least 26 states pushed through laws that permanently weakened government authority to protect public health.
Tuesday, September 14
12:40 p.m.: Sacramento Supervisors consider denouncing COVID-19 misinformation
The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors is considering a resolution denouncing health misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
The resolution would affirm generally accepted facts regarding COVID-19 and will also call any misinformation or disinformation a dangerous threat to the health and well-being of county residents.
The six-page resolution follows a similar action by county supervisors in San Diego. Its language isn’t enforceable, but Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna said the board needs to take a strong stance.
“I find it very unfortunate, quite frankly, that I feel compelled to bring forth this type of resolution,” Serna said. “I never thought in a million years I’d have to spend time on a resolution to be that explicit about the truth — but that’s where we are right now, not just in Sacramento County, but unfortunately across the country when it comes to misinformation and disinformation.”
While it doesn’t mention her by name, vaccine-skepticism expressed by Supervisor Sue Frost is a subtext to the resolution. She recently spoke at an anti-vaccine rally in August and has repeatedly debunked claims about the vaccine, touted alternative treatments, and expressed unfounded concerns about mask usage.
Serna, the resolution’s co-author, said he’s hoping the board will put political differences aside and approve it unanimously.
12:23 p.m.: Case rates have skyrocketed among unvaccinated people
The number of COVID-19 deaths and cases in the U.S. have returned to levels reached last winter, potentially bolstering President Joe Biden’s argument for sweeping new vaccination requirements.
According to the Associated Press, the U.S. is now averaging more than 1,800 COVID-19 deaths and 170,000 new cases per day — still, that’s well below the 3,400 deaths and 250,000 cases per day in January.
However, health care leaders are frustrated as we’re already nine months into the nation’s vaccination drive, and hospitals are still being filled to capacity with unvaccinated patients.
While the increase in cases is mostly concentrated in the South, counties in Northern California are also seeing an increase in caseload.
According to Johns Hopkins University, Sacramento County’s 7-day rolling average for new cases is 26.05 per 100,000 residents. Shasta County currently has the highest 7-day rolling average in the state, with 93.01 cases per 100,000 residents.
The U.S. is vaccinating about 900,000 people per day, down from the high of 3.4 million in mid-April.
12:11 p.m.: FDA experts among an international group of scientists urging to skip booster shots
An international group of scientists are arguing the average person doesn’t need a COVID-19 booster shot yet — an opinion that highlights the intense scientific divide over the questions.
According to the Associated Press, two of those scientists are top U.S. vaccine regulators, raising questions about whether White House plans for booster doses are getting ahead of the government’s own experts.
The group analyzed a long list of worldwide studies and concluded the shots still work well despite the extra-contagious delta variant. Their opinion piece was published Monday in the weekly peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet.
Monday, September 13
10:04 a.m.: Top FDA official hopeful that younger children can get COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year
The Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine chief is pledging to rapidly evaluate COVID-19 vaccines for younger kids — as soon as the studies are in.
Dr. Peter Marks tells The Associated Press he is “very, very hopeful” that vaccinations for 5- to 11-year-olds will be underway by the year’s end.
One company, Pfizer, is expected to turn over its study results by the end of September, and Marks said the FDA hopes to analyze the data in a matter of weeks.
He affirmed that the agency wouldn’t cut corners in the possible vaccine approval.
9:44 a.m.: Latest federal vaccine rules sets off long list of legal challenges
President Joe Biden’s administration is gearing up for another major clash between federal and state rules over its sweeping new vaccine requirements that have Republican governors threatening lawsuits, according to the Associated Press.
But while many details about the rules remain unknown, some experts say Biden appears to be on firm legal ground to issue the directive in the name of protecting employee safety.
Republicans swiftly denounced the mandate that could impact 100 million Americans as “government overreach” and vowed to sue. If they follow through, it would become another test of state power versus federal power over rules not meant to be enforced daily, but rather to have its intended effect by threat.
9:31 a.m.: UN chief says pandemic exposed the fractured relationships between nations
The United Nations chief has issued a dire warning that the world is moving in the wrong direction and faces “a pivotal moment.”
According to the Associated Press, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that continuing “business as usual” could lead to a breakdown of global order and a future of perpetual crises.
He says that the world is under “enormous stress” on almost every front and that the COVID-19 pandemic was a wake-up call that highlighted the failure of nations to come together and take joint decisions to help all people in the face of a life-threatening global emergency.
Guterres also said that the COVID-19 pandemic exposed deficiencies in the global financial system. During the pandemic, he noted that the 10 richest men in the world saw their combined wealth increase by half a trillion dollars since the COVID-19 pandemic began while 55% of the world’s population, or about 4 billion people, “are one step away from destitution, with no social protection whatsoever.”
To address the threats of social instability, the U.N. chief recommended a series of measures “to provide universal health coverage, education, housing, decent work and income protection for everyone, everywhere.”
Sunday, September 12
12:12 p.m.: Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg tests positive for COVID-19
On Saturday afternoon, Mayor Darrell Steinberg announced on Twitter that he has tested positive for COVID-19. He said he received a positive test on Friday. The mayor, who turns 62 in October, is fully vaccinated.
“I am experiencing a fever and cold-like symptoms. I will be fine as I quarantine at home and refrain from public events until doctors tell me it’s safe for me to go out,” Steinberg said on Twitter. “Please everybody get vaccinated. The Delta variant is highly contagious, and if you’re not vaccinated there’s a much higher chance of serious illness or death. Please take good care, Sacramento.”
Read more here.
Saturday, September 11
12:22 p.m.: Unvaccinated people are 11 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those fully vaccinated, says new research
Unvaccinated people are 11 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those fully vaccinated, according to new studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The studies, which were released Friday and analyzed data from 600,000 Americans between April 4 and July 17, also found that vaccinated people were nearly five times less likely to get infected and 10 times less likely to get so sick they ended up in the hospital.
However, the studies suggest that the effectiveness of the vaccines may have dropped as the delta variant became dominant.
Read more here.
Friday, September 10
10:12 a.m.: Los Angeles requires all students 12 and up to be vaccinated to attend in-person classes
The Los Angeles board of education has voted to require students 12 and older to be vaccinated against the coronavirus to attend in-person classes in the nation’s second-largest school district.
The board’s Thursday vote makes LA by far the largest of a very small number of school districts with a vaccine requirement.
Nearby Culver City imposed a similar policy last month for its 7,000 students. For comparison, LA has more than 600,000 students.
Under the LA plan, students 12 and up who participate in sports and other extracurricular activities need to get both of the two shots by the end of October. Other students have until Dec. 19.
9:54 a.m.: Some kids could develop ‘long COVID after fighting a COVID-19 infection
Symptoms that persist, recur, or begin a month or more after a COVID-19 infection can affect children and teens as well as adults, according to the Associated Press.
Estimates vary on how often these “long COVID” symptoms occur in kids. A recently published U.K. study found that about 4% had COVID-19 symptoms more than a month after getting infected.
Fatigue, headaches and loss of smell were among the most common complaints and most were gone by two months.
Coughing, chest pain and brain fog also have been seen in affected kids. Long COVID-19 can occur even when the initial infection was mild or had no symptoms.
9:50 a.m.: New federal mandate requires large employers to mandate vaccinations or weekly testing
Larger U.S. businesses won’t have to decide whether to require their employees to get COVID-19 vaccines — it’s now federal policy, although some important details remain to be worked out.
According to the Associated Press, President Joe Biden announced sweeping new orders on Thursday requiring employers with more than 100 workers to mandate immunizations or offer weekly testing.
Large swaths of the private sector have already stepped in to mandate vaccinations for at least some of their employees. However, the U.S. is still struggling to curb the surging delta variant that is killing thousands each week and jeopardizing the nation’s economic recovery.
Thursday, September 9
10:16 a.m.: California lawmakers shelve vaccine bills, for now
California lawmakers have shelved bills aimed at requiring state workers to either be vaccinated or get tested weekly for coronavirus to keep their jobs, according to the Associated Press.
One bill by Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks would have required all workers to either receive the coronavirus vaccine or submit to weekly testing. Another bill by Assemblyman Evan Low sought to make sure state law protected businesses that chose to require their workers to be vaccinated.
Neither bill will advance this year. Wednesday, more than a thousand people gathered at the state Capitol to protest vaccine mandates. Organizers said they wanted to let lawmakers know they oppose the bills, which could return next year.
10:05 a.m.: Biden administration to require vaccination for federal employees
President Joe Biden is toughening COVID-19 vaccine requirements for federal workers and contractors. He aims to boost vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant that is killing thousands each week and jeopardizes the nation’s economic recovery.
Biden will sign a new executive order to require vaccination for executive branch employees and contractors who do business with the federal government, as reported by the Associated Press.
The step comes in advance of a speech Thursday afternoon outlining a six-pronged plan to address the latest rise in coronavirus cases and the stagnating pace of COVID-19 vaccination.
A person familiar with the plan discussed details on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak on the record.
9:53 a.m.: Here’s what you need to know about COVID-19’s mu variant
The mu variant of the coronavirus was first identified in Colombia in January, and has since caused isolated outbreaks in South America, Europe and the U.S.
According to the Associated Press, last month, the World Health Organization listed it as a “variant of interest” because of concerns that it may make vaccines and treatments less effective, but evidence is needed.
So far, the mu variant doesn’t seem to be spreading quickly. Most countries remain concerned about the highly contagious delta variant — the dominant variant in almost all of the 174 countries where it’s been detected.
Wednesday, September 8
10:27 a.m.: Butte County residents may see a return to indoor mask mandates
Butte County residents could see the return of an indoor mask mandate as local coronavirus cases continue to surge.
Public Health Director Danette York said the county’s health officer has the authority to issue mask mandates but said health officials have chosen to discuss the matter with the Board of Supervisors and health care providers before deciding.
“It may come. It may not, in the long run,” York said. “As of right now, though, we are following all state guidance.”
California health officials recommend universal mask use for public settings regardless of vaccination status. New numbers from the state show more than 100 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Butte County as of Monday. Those figures rival the surge last winter.
10:12 a.m.: The US summer of hope is becoming the COVID-19 fall of gloom
America’s summer of hope was supposed to get residents vaccinated against COVID-19 and save lives. Instead, hope has deflated as the delta variant is causing as many deaths as back in March 2021.
According to the Associated Press, the delta variant is filling hospitals and sickening an alarming number of children — so much so, that the total coronavirus-related deaths in some places has reached the highest levels since the start of the pandemic back in 2020.
School systems that reopened their classrooms are abruptly switching back to remote learning because of outbreaks. Legal disputes, threats and violence have erupted over mask and vaccine requirements.
The country’s death toll stands at more than 650,000, with one major forecast model projecting it will top 750,000 by Dec. 1.
9:56 a.m.: WHO chief urges rich countries to stop administering booster shots
The head of the World Health Organization is calling on rich countries with large supplies of coronavirus vaccines to refrain from offering booster shots through the end of the year, expanding a call that has been largely ignored.
According to the Associated Press, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also said he was “appalled” at comments by pharmaceutical manufacturers who said vaccine supplies are high enough to allow for both booster shots and vaccines in countries in dire need of vaccinations but are facing shortages.
The WHO chief says, “I will not stay silent when companies and countries that control the global supply of vaccines think the world’s poor should be satisfied with leftovers.”
The U.S. and other nations have already begun to administer booster shots for some vulnerable groups of residents.
Tuesday, September 7
6:36 p.m.: Several unemployment benefits expired this week for Californians
Several unemployment benefits expired this week for thousands of Californians, including an additional $300-a-week in supplemental income and also benefits for gig workers.
Daniela Urban at the Center for Workers Rights in Sacramento says she’s been hearing from many people who are now panicked.
“Certainly the loss of the extra $300 a week of benefits, which there doesn’t seem to be any replacement for, impacts claimants’ day-to-day personal finances and will continue to make it a struggle for them to provide for their basic needs,” she said.
Unemployment numbers have improved for white and Asian American workers, according to Urban, but Black and Latino workers continue to see the highest rates of unemployment and will be disproportionately impacted.
But there is still time to help these workers, she says, especially as the pandemic continues and the Delta variant is surging.
“A lot depends on whether the state or government responds with additional support for workers who continue to be unemployed. This does not have to be the hard-stop end for unemployment benefits,” she said.
More than 50,000 people in Sacramento remain unemployed.
11:10 a.m.: Nursing shortage in Nevada hospitals may cause ambulances to redirect patients to other hospitals
Nevada hospitals are seeing a severe shortage of nurses, and some northern Nevada hospitals are nearly out of staffed beds for patients.
According to the Associated Press, state and health officials recently said that Nevada is grappling with a nursing shortage like much of the country.
While the state already had a shortage of nurses even before the COVID-19 pandemic, each wave of the virus drove some to leave the profession altogether.
Dr. Chris Lake with the Nevada Hospital Association says a few concurrent events compound the issue:
- The number of unvaccinated people ending up in the hospital needing treatment
- Wildfire evacuees from another northern Nevada hospital are being moved around due to overcrowding
10:47 a.m.: There’s an increasing number of first responders dying of COVID-19
The resurgence of COVID-19 this summer and the national debate over vaccine requirements have created a fraught situation for U.S. first responders, who are dying in larger numbers but pushing back against mandates.
It’s a stark contrast from the beginning of the vaccine rollout when first responders were prioritized for shots.
According to the Associated Press, the mandates affect tens of thousands of police officers, firefighters, and others on the front lines across the country, many of whom are spurning the vaccine. Despite implementing consequences that range from weekly testing to suspension or termination, COVID-19 deaths are the leading cause of U.S. law enforcement line-of-duty deaths.
No national statistics show the vaccination rate for America’s entire population of first responders, but individual police and fire departments across the country report figures far below the national rate of 74% of adults who have had at least one dose.
10:17 a.m.: Health officials unsure who should get booster shots once released
COVID-19 booster shots may be coming for at least some Americans, but there’s still important science to be worked out over who really needs them and when.
According to the Associated Press, the Biden administration’s initial plan was to offer Pfizer or Moderna boosters starting Sept. 20.
While real-world data shows the vaccines used in the U.S. remain strongly protective against severe disease and death, their ability to prevent milder infection is dropping for reasons that are not fully understood.
Scientific advisers will publicly debate Pfizer’s evidence on Sept. 17. Officials say regulators want more data about Moderna’s boosters as well.
Monday, September 6
11:11 a.m.: Children making up a higher percentage of Sacramento County COVID-19 cases
Children are making up a higher percentage of COVID-19 cases in Sacramento County, though health officials say some of the transmission is happening in the community and not just within schools.
Children are accounting for around 20% of new cases, Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye said Thursday, compared to around 16% since the start of the pandemic.
“As schools open, we are seeing an increase in cases among children,” Kasirye said. “Most of them are mild and do not require hospitalizations, but still we are seeing an increase.”
Health officials said many cases being detected in schools were of children who caught COVID-19 at home or in the community, not of direct transmission in schools. Kasirye said the county has a team working with schools to identify cases, and encouraged everyone to continue wearing masks in school settings.
Kasirye said the county’s COVID-19 cases appear to be plateauing, despite the release of data from a backlog of cases from the Kaiser Permanente health system. Still, she said the county was nearing hospital capacity, though no patients have yet had to be transferred outside the county.
Saturday, September 4
1:01 p.m.: San Joaquin Valley hospitals near ICU capacity
Hospitals in the San Joaquin Valley are close to running out of beds in their intensive care units, triggering new rules from state health officials.
The region — which includes Calaveras, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, San Benito, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tulare and Tuolumne counties — has less than 10% of its staffed adult ICU beds available for three consecutive days, according to the state Department of Public Health.
For the next week, hospitals with ICU beds available in the region are required to accept certain transfer patients, and other hospitals in the state can be required to accept transfers from the San Joaquin Valley. Health officials will reevaluate the order on Sept. 9.
While COVID-19 case counts in the state have slowed recently, rates of hospitalizations and deaths have continued to increase over the past two weeks. As of Saturday, 8,221 Californians were hospitalized with COVID-19, and 29% of all hospital patients in the San Joaquin Valley have tested positive.
Friday, September 3
10:55 a.m.: Nevada hospitals facing severe nursing shortages
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a nurse staffing crisis that is forcing many U.S. hospitals to pay top dollar to get the help they need to handle the crush of patients this summer, according to the Associated Press.
The problem, health leaders say, is twofold: nurses are quitting or retiring, exhausted or demoralized by the crisis. Many are leaving for lucrative temporary jobs with traveling nurse agencies that pay $5,000 or more a week.
Nevada hospitals are seeing a severe shortage of nurses as the northern part of the state’s hospitals are nearly out of staffed beds for patients.
Despite much of the country hitting critical nurse shortages, Nevada had a shortage before the pandemic even hit. Each wave of COVID-19 ended up driving some nurses to leave the profession entirely.
Dr. Chris Lake with the Nevada Hospital Association said the issue has been compounded by the unyielding number of unvaccinated people that end up in the hospital. Northern Nevada hospitals have also had to contend with evacuations due to the wildfires that have pushed patients off into other already-crowded hospitals.
10:33 a.m.: Social Security insolvency date pushed up one year due to COVID-19 pandemic
The sharp shock of the coronavirus recession pushed Social Security a year closer to insolvency but left Medicare’s exhaustion date unchanged, according to the Associated Press.
It’s a counterintuitive assessment that deepens the uncertainty around the nation’s bedrock retirement programs. Social Security’s massive trust fund will be unable to pay full benefits in 2034 instead of last year’s estimated exhaustion date of 2035.
The depletion date for Medicare’s trust fund for inpatient care remained unchanged from last year, estimated in 2026. The full impact of the coronavirus pandemic will take several more years to play out.
10:11 a.m.: Contact tracing has slowed down due to latest surge
Health investigators across the U.S. are finding it nearly impossible to keep up with the deluge of new COVID-19 infections, according to the Associated Press.
The tidal wave of infections is hampering the contact tracing efforts that were once seen as a pillar in the nation’s pandemic response.
States are hiring new staff and seeking volunteers to bolster the ranks of contact tracers that have been completely overwhelmed by surging coronavirus cases.
Some health departments have just a few dozen investigators to respond to thousands of cases each day. Some states trimmed their tracing teams when virus numbers dropped — now they’re scrambling to train new investigators.
Others have triaged their teams to focus on the most vulnerable, such as cases involving schools.
Thursday, September 2
10:14 a.m.: Los Angeles couple convicted in $18 million pandemic relief scam are on the run
A Los Angeles couple who were convicted of helping steal $18 million in COVID-19 relief funds are on the lam after cutting off their ankle monitors, according to the Associated Press.
The FBI announced that Richard Ayvazyan and Marietta Terabelian are considered fugitives. The couple was convicted of fraud and conspiracy in June and were potentially facing decades in prison.
The couple, Ayvazyan’s brother and a Glendale man, were convicted in June of submitting phony loan applications for federal business relief funds.
Prosecutors said they actually spent the money to buy expensive homes, gold coins, diamonds, jewelry and other luxuries.
10:00 a.m.: Here are some options employers have to get their employees vaccinated
More companies are requiring COVID-19 vaccines and taking actions to motivate employees into getting their shots. So much so that many may fire workers who don’t comply or charge them more for their health insurance, according to the Associated Press.
Employers also might limit business travel or perks like access to the company gym only to the vaccinated. Many businesses also have been offering cash, gift cards, and other incentives to workers who get shots.
But since Pfizer’s vaccine recently got full approval from the Food and Drug Administration, more employers have started taking a harder stance on vaccination.
9:54 a.m.: US jobless claims hit pandemic low as hiring hastens
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to 340,000, a pandemic low, another sign that the job market is steadily rebounding from the economic collapse caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Associated Press, jobless claims dropped by 14,000. Vaccinations for COVID-19 have supported the job market by encouraging businesses to reopen or expand hours for consumers to return to restaurants, bars and shops.
In response, employers across the country have been boosting hiring to meet a surge in consumer demand. Still, a resurgence of cases tied to the highly contagious delta variant has clouded the economic outlook.
Wednesday, September 1
10:23 a.m.: 80% of eligible Californians at least partially vaccinated
More than 80% of the people eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine in California have received at least one dose, according to the Associated Press.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the news yesterday at an Oakland vaccine clinic. He said California is now among the top 10 states in vaccination rates, despite California having by far the largest population of any state in the U.S.
Newsom said vaccinations have increased steadily in recent weeks after orders requiring state workers and teachers to either get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing.
Newsom faces a recall election on Sept. 14. His Republican opponents oppose his vaccine orders.
10:12 p.m.: School board members are quitting because of overly hostile meetings and parents
A growing number of school board members across the U.S. are resigning or questioning their willingness to serve. Many have pointed to the reality that meetings have devolved into shouting contests over contentious issues like masking and vaccinations in schools.
According to the Associated Press, board members are largely unpaid volunteers, often former educators and parents who step forward to shape school policy and choose a superintendent.
School districts in Nevada, Wisconsin, and elsewhere have seen multiple departures in recent weeks, some saying they fear for their safety. Board members say the charged political climate that has seeped from the national stage into their meetings has made a difficult job even more challenging.
9:45 a.m.: Black US farmers still waiting for promised funding tied to COVID-19 stimulus package
Black farmers and farmers of color are battling in the courts to save a $4 billion debt relief program approved by Congress, according to the Associated Press.
Congress approved this debt relief for 16,000 farmers of color in March as a part of a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package. The funding was intended to remedy past discrimination in U.S. Department of Agriculture loan programs.
White farmers have sued, arguing that the relief is discriminatory. The USDA’s history of discrimination is so pervasive that many Black farmers call the government agency “the last plantation.” They’re now fighting with the USDA to defend the debt relief program.
Find older coronavirus updates on our previous blog page here.
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