California Coronavirus Updates: Southern California Hits 0% ICU Capacity

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

Latest Updates

Southern California hits 0% ICU capacity

State Capitol sees COVID-19 jump

Sacramento County hires acting health services director

FDA authorizes Moderna vaccine for emergency use

Trump administration cuts federal health care funding for California over abortion

 

COVID-19 By The Numbers

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.

2:35 p.m.: Trump administration cuts federal health care funding for California over abortion

The Trump administration said it’s cutting $200 million in federal health care funding to California because the state requires insurance providers to cover abortions.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said it will withhold the funding from Medicaid in the new fiscal quarter starting in January, and “if the state does not come into compliance” the department will cut another $200 million per fiscal quarter.

Earlier this year, the administration warned California that it could lose federal funding over a 2014 regulation mandating that employers and private insurance plans pay for abortions.

2:24 p.m.: The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits keeps rising

Another 885,000 Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week as coronavirus cases skyrocketed, according to the Associated Press.

The resurgence of cases threatens the country’s economic recovery after its springtime collapse. The number of applications increased from 865,000 the previous week. Even nine months after the viral pandemic paralyzed the economy, many employers are still slashing jobs as the pandemic forces more business restrictions and leads many consumers to stay home.

Before COVID-19 erupted in the U.S. in March, weekly jobless claims had typically numbered about 22,5000. The now far-higher numbers reflect an employment market under duress from diminished job security for many.

10:58 a.m.: Another COVID-19 vaccine is under FDA review

A second COVID-19 vaccine is moving closer to joining the U.S. fight against the pandemic, according to the Associated Press.

A panel of independent experts is meeting Thursday to discuss the vaccine made by Moderna, another American-based pharmaceutical giant. The panel’s FDA review is the next-to-last step before the agency decides whether the shots can be used on an emergency basis.

The FDA staff issued a positive review earlier in the week, confirming the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness. If the panel gives a thumbs-up, the FDA is expected to give the green light within hours or days. A Pfizer vaccine got the go-ahead last week.

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.

2:20 p.m.: California population growth slumps to lowest on record

State officials said California’s population growth has slowed to the lowest rate on record.

According to the Associated Press, for the second year in a row, more people left the state than moved there. The result was a net migration loss of 135,600 people. While last year people left the state in similar numbers, far fewer moved to California, especially from April to June when the state was under a stay-at-home order because of the pandemic.

Overall, California’s population grew 0.05% — adding only 21,200 residents — after accounting for births and deaths.  The latest population estimate came on Wednesday from the state Department of Finance and covers the change from July 1, 2019, to July 1, 2020.

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.

1:53 p.m.: Nevada residents angry at coronavirus restrictions

County officials in Nevada have said more than 60 residents testified about coronavirus restrictions during a Washoe County commissioners meeting, according to the Associated Press.

Some of the attendees argued against mask mandates, among other concerns. The Reno Gazette-Journal reports that all residents voiced their anxieties on Tuesday about businesses being destroyed and children lacking quality education while not either wearing masks or wearing them improperly.

None of the commissioners reminded residents of a statewide mask mandate that requires masks to be worn. Commission Chair Bob Lucey said officers patrolled aisles and removed at least five people who did not follow the rules.

12:48 p.m.: Regional stay-at-home order going into effect in Bay Area

The Bay Area and other surrounding counties are set to go under the state’s regional stay-at-home order Thursday at 11:59 p.m. after the region’s ICU capacity fell to 12.9% Wednesday.

It’s the fourth of the state’s five regions to fall under the order with less than 15% ICU capacity. Northern California is now the only region that hasn’t met the threshold for the order, meaning about 98% of the state’s population is under a stay-at-home order.

The Bay Area region is made up of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano and Sonoma counties. Five of those counties already put the order in effect voluntarily earlier this month.

11:14 a.m.: California’s COVID-19 surge brings field hospitals, makeshift morgues

Hospitals across the state are filling up so quickly that officials are rolling out mobile field facilities and scrambling to hire more doctors and nurses to prepare for an expected urge in coronavirus patients.

According to the Associated Press, the state is distributing 5,000 body bags mostly to the hard-hit Los Angeles and San Diego areas, along with 60 refrigerated trailers standing by as makeshift morgues. Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday that the number of average daily deaths has quadrupled from a month ago. The state reported a record 295 deaths on Tuesday.

The escalating crisis might not abate for two months despite the arrival of the first doses of vaccines this week.

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.

9:59 a.m.: Scientists worldwide studying, planning for next pandemic

Teams of researchers around the globe are now racing to study the places and species where the next pandemic may emerge, according to the Associated Press.

Even as the world continues to struggle with the devastation of COVID-19, scientists have said that this pandemic likely won’t be the last. It’s no coincidence that many scientists are focusing their attention on the world’s only flying mammals — bats.

Viruses that emerge from bats are more lethal in humans than those from other species. Scientists are probing the mysteries of bat immune systems and investigating strategies to minimize contact between humans and livestock with bats and other wild animals.

9:56 a.m.: FDA clears at-home COVID-19 test

A home test for COVID-19 will soon be on U.S. store shelves, according to the Associated Press.

On Tuesday, U.S. officials cleared the first device that consumers can buy without a prescription to test themselves entirely at home. Regulators granted use for a similar test last month, but it requires a doctor’s prescription.

The plastic test kit from Australian manufacturer Ellume allows users to swab themselves and develop the results at home. The test connects to a digital app to help users interpret the results. The company said it will have 3 million tests available next month.

Monday, December 14

5:51 p.m.: Newsom executive order extends small business tax deadlines

California small businesses will have more time to file their tax returns in 2021. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order Monday that gives small businesses until the end of July to file their first-quarter tax returns. More broadly, the order gives a 90-day extension on returns and payments for all businesses with returns of less than $1 million.

It comes as California prepares to enter the new year still in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic, which has prompted restrictions that have shuttered many businesses. Newsom’s order also modified farmworker housing laws and quarantine guidelines for workers.

5:47 p.m.: California COVID-19 surge continues over weekend

Los Angeles County again broke a record for coronavirus hospitalizations this weekend as San Francisco County reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began. 

Statewide, more than 30,000 confirmed coronavirus cases were reported Sunday. In San Francisco County, health officials reported 323 new cases on Saturday. In Los Angeles County, officials said on Sunday that more than 4,000 people were hospitalized for COVID-19. 

The record-breaking figures in Los Angeles and San Francisco counties come as more than 325,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are on their way to California. 

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.”

12:22 p.m.: Sacramento will get first COVID-19 vaccine shipment this week

The UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento expects to get its first shipment of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine Monday or Tuesday. It will arrive frozen.

UC Davis Health CEO David Lubarsky said they’ll begin by vaccinating frontline emergency department workers.

“We owe it to them,” Lubarsky said. “So literally within an hour of when those vaccines hit our pharmacy storeroom and get into our freezer, we’re going to begin calling people up by their appointments and getting them vaccinated.”

Frontline workers include doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, plus other nonmedical staff in hospitals like food service workers and janitorial services.

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.

11:25 a.m.: Sacramento jury trials on hold through at least Jan. 4

One more thing that has come to a halt because of the Sacramento region stay-at-home order: jury trials.  

The Sacramento County Superior Court says it is suspending the start of any new trials until at least Jan. 4. That means people with jury summons for next week, the week of Dec. 21 and the week of Dec. 28 are off the hook.  

If you have a jury summons for the week of Jan. 4, check the court’s website. If there’s an extension of the stay-at-home order, that would likely affect resumption of trials.

Friday, December 11

6:36 p.m.: Coronavirus cases in last 24 hours more than double summer’s single-day peak

More than 35,000 Californians tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 24 hours. That’s more than double the single-day peak during the state’s summer coronavirus surge. 

Most of the state will remain under a stay-at-home order through Christmas as the state approaches 1.5 million cases total. 

Meanwhile the number of available intensive care unit beds continues to drop. Hospitals across most of the state have less than 15 percent available ICU capacity.

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.

9:39 a.m.: US panel endorses the use of COVID-19 vaccine

A U.S. government advisory panel has endorsed Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, according to the Associated Press.

In a significant step toward an epic vaccination campaign that could finally conquer the outbreak, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to follow the recommendation issued Thursday by its expert advisers. The group concluded that the shot appears to be safe and effective against the novel coronavirus in people 16 and older.

A final FDA decision is expected within days. Shots would then begin for health care workers and nursing home residents. Widespread access to the general public is not expected until the spring.

9:35 a.m.: California’s health order ignored by some residents

State health officials are urging residents to stay home as much as possible because of a coronavirus surge taxing hospitals, according to the Associated Press.

However, the most recent stay-at-home order allows Californians to do many more activities than the March shutdown that made the state a model on how to respond to the virus. People have been buying Christmas trees, shopping for groceries and hitting the gym since the orders took effect Monday in some regions.

Los Angeles County Health Director Barbara Ferrer is warning of catastrophic consequences if more people don’t heed orders to stay home with their own household members only.

9:25 a.m: Greater Sacramento region residents will get text alert about new order

The State Office of Emergency Services will be sending out a wireless alert on Friday at noon about the Greater Sacramento region stay-at-home order. The state is sending out this alert about the order, so people in the region don’t call 911 or law enforcement offices.

OES said that the text is a reminder to residents that rising coronavirus cases are bringing hospital ICU capacity in the region below 15%, so residents are being asked to stay home except for essential activities.

Counties included in the new Greater Sacramento Region includes Alpine, Amador, Butte Colusa, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, Sierra, Sutter, Yolo.

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.

3:38 p.m.: San Diego County officials want to fight in court over still-opened strip clubs

While California’s new regional stay-at-home order has barred restaurant dining, shuttered hair salons and kept church services outside, two strip clubs in San Diego are still welcoming patrons nightly, protected by a court order.

According to the Associated Press, San Diego County officials on Wednesday voted 3-2 to appeal the judge’s ruling that has allowed Pacer Showgirls International and Cheetahs Gentleman’s Club to stay open after the establishments sued the county and state over being ordered to close their doors.

The judge issued a preliminary injunction on Nov. 6, protecting the establishments from enforcement actions by state and local officials.

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.

11:26 a.m.: One-day COVID-19 death total is now higher than D-Day or 9/11 attacks

As officials met to discuss approval of a COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, the numbers grew ever more stunning.

According to the Associated Press, Johns Hopkins University reported that the U.S. recorded 3,124 deaths Wednesday, the highest one-day total yet. That staggering number is higher than the 2,500 American who died on D-Day in World War II.

The day’s total is also higher than the 2,977 who died in the 9/11 attacks. Up until last week, the peak of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. was 2,603 on April 15, when New York City was the epicenter of the nation’s outbreak. More than 106,000 people were hospitalized on Wednesday — also a record total.

10:41 a.m.: US health experts to decide if Pfizer vaccine gets authorized

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine faces one of its final hurdles before an expected decision to greenlight the shot for use in millions of Americans, according to the Associated Press.

FDA advisers are meeting on Thursday to scrutinize the company’s data for any red flags or oversights. This public review comes as U.K. regulators investigate two apparent cases of an allergic reaction to the vaccine.

Safety will be at the forefront of the medical experts’ panel as they vote on whether to endorse the vaccine. They will also address some unknowns about the vaccine’s effectiveness in certain groups. A final FDA decision and the first shots could follow within days.

10:24 a.m.: Top COVID-19 relief negotiator sees ‘progress’

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said there’s headway on a $900 billion-plus COVID-19 relief plan, according to the Associated Press.

Mnuchin, President Donald Trump’s top COVID-19 relief negotiator, is citing similarities between the latest administration offer and an emerging measure from a bipartisan group of senators. However, a one-week extension of a potential government shutdown appears to have sapped some urgency from the talks.

Both House and Senate leaders said they won’t adjourn Congress without passing an aid measure. The aid is linked to a government-wide funding bill, and the expected one-week extension for that bill is set to end Dec. 18.

9:55 a.m.: Sleep Train Arena opened as COVID-19 surge facility

The former Sleep Train Arena in North Natomas has been converted into a COVID-19 surge facility amid record-breaking case numbers. The facility opened Wednesday.

There are now 20 beds in place, with 224 more in reserve if needed. There’s no intensive care available at the former Sacramento Kings arena, so the patients admitted to this surge facility will be coronavirus patients who don’t require intensive care and other non-COVID-19 patients from overcrowded hospitals.

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.

9:58 a.m.: FDA close to authorizing COVID-19 vaccine

U.S. regulators have released their first scientific evaluation of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine and confirmed it offers strong protection, according to the Associated Press.

That sets the stage for the government to greenlight the most significant vaccination effort in the nation’s history. A panel of Food and Drug Administration advisers will meet on Thursday to decide whether to allow emergency use to vaccinate millions of Americans with Pfizer’s formulation. A final FDA decision and the first ew shots could follow within days.

9:55 a.m.: New White House offer adds $600 checks to COVID-19 relief

The House is expected to pass a one-week government funding bill as lawmakers try to reach an agreement on another coronavirus relief bill, according to the Associated Press.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration offered a $916 billion coronavirus relief package that would send a $600 direct payment to most Americans but eliminate a $300-per-week employment benefit favored by a bipartisan group of Senate negotiators.

Democrats were unhappy that the administration refused to back the partial restoration of the $300-per-week bonus pandemic jobless benefits that lapsed in August. However, both sides agree that new virus aid needs to get done before Congress adjourns this year.

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

6:41 p.m.: California unemployment fraud likely tops $2 billion, bank says

Bank of America says it’s likely California has paid at least $2 billion in fraudulent unemployment benefits. Bank of America contracts with the state to distribute unemployment benefits to people on debit cards. 

In September, the state asked Bank of America to freeze 345,000 accounts because of suspected fraud. In a letter to state lawmakers on Monday, Bank of America said its assessment of those accounts revealed about $2 billion in fraudulent activity. The bank also identified 295,000 suspicious accounts it says the state should investigate. 

California has paid $110 billion in benefits since the start of the pandemic.

6:35 p.m.: Some Southern California counties ask to be removed from stay-at-home restrictions 

Three counties northwest of Los Angeles want to be separated from the state-designated Southern California region for determining the extent of pandemic restrictions.

Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties plan to seek approval to create a smaller Central Coast region if the tri-county ICU capacity exceeds 15% in the next three weeks. At that point, the three counties will ask to be assessed on the tri-county ICU capacity and not overall Southern California region capacity.

The region is now under new restrictions after falling below the 15% threshold.

3:17 p.m.: NFL players say they don’t need bubble to finish season

NFL players believe the current football season can be completed on time without the league moving into a “bubble,” according to the Associated Press.

Other sports have had a postseason bubble in hopes of reducing the spread of the virus to players. The NFL instead believes that they can skip the bubble as long as everyone follows the rules already in place meant to slow down the spread.

NFLPA President JC Tretter and Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said that the rules already in place requiring players and staff to be tested daily, wear masks, socially distance and have contact tracers have helped prevent the virus’ spread in the league.

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.

10:17 a.m.: Current administration under scrutiny for passing up buying more COVID-19 doses

The Trump administration’s coronavirus vaccine effort is coming under new scrutiny, according to the Associated Press.

They failed to lock in a chance to buy millions of additional doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, which has shown to be highly effective against COVID-19, according to research. That decision could delay the delivery of a second batch of doses until the multinational pharmaceutical giant fulfills other international contracts.

The revelation comes as President Donald Trump plans to host a White House summit to celebrate the expected approval of the first vaccine later this week. Officials from President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team were not invited.

9:36 a.m.: Sacramento US Attorney tests positive for coronavirus

The U.S. Attorney for Sacramento, McGregor Scott, has tested positive for COVID-19.

The positive result came just after an awards ceremony in his office. Everyone was masked and maintained social distance except for a group photo at the end of the ceremony.

Scott said he feels fine and has started working from home for now. He hopes to be cleared to return to his office late this week.

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.

10:53 a.m.: President-elect Joe Biden asks Americans to commit to 100 days of mask wearing once in office

Joe Biden said he will ask Americans to commit to 100 days of wearing masks as one of his first acts as president, according to the Associated Press.

On Thursday, he stopped just short of the nationwide mandate he’s pushed before to prevent the coronavirus’ spread. The move would mark a notable shift from President Donald Trump, whose own skepticism of mask-wearing has contributed to politicizing the issue.

The president-elect has frequently emphasized mask-wearing as a “patriotic duty.”

10:48 a.m.: The coronavirus pandemic economic toll on Nevada will outlast virus

A panel of economic experts in Nevada has released projections that suggest the financial toll COVID-19 has taken on Las Vegas and the rest of the state will outlast the virus.

Projects also suggest the toll will cut into the tax revenue the state uses to fund services, including healthcare and education, until 2023. Nevada’s five-member Economic Forum sent forecasts to Gov. Steve Sisolak and legislators on Thursday that highlight how the state will collect less tax revenue in 2022 and 2023 than in 2020 and 2021.

The forecasts will serve as a starting point for lawmakers tasked with re-balancing the budget when the Legislature reconvenes in 2021.

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.

3:03 p.m.: US records over 3,100 COVID-19 deaths in single day, breaking record

The U.S. has recorded over 3,100 COVID-19 related deaths in a single day, obliterating the record set last spring, according to the Associated Press.

The number of Americans hospitalized with the virus has eclipsed 100,000 for the first time, and new cases have begun topping 200,000 a day — that’s according to figures released on Thursday. The three benchmarks altogether show a country slipping deeper into crisis, with perhaps the worst yet to come.

Millions of Americans disregarded warnings to stay home over Thanksgiving and celebrate only with members of their households.

2:59 p.m.: Vaccine distribution plans move forward with health disparities in the back seat

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine to the right people could change the pandemic’s course in the U.S., but who are the right people? The decision currently looms for President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration with Jan. 20 about seven weeks away.

According to the Associated Press, a new analysis argues for targeting the first vaccines to the same low-income, Black, Hispanic and Native American households that have disproportionately suffered from the pandemic.

However, no one has committed to the idea since it would be a significant shift from the current population-based method adopted by the current vaccine manufacturing plan, Operation Warp Speed.

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.

11:42 a.m.: Coronavirus woes continue to impact US unemployment

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week, but the total number is still high, according to the Associated Press.

As a sign of a slumping U.S. economy and job market, the total number of applicants last week dropped to a still-high total of 712,000. Thursday’s report from the Labor Department said that the initial claims for jobless aid dropped from 787,000 from the week before, showing that even as the number has decreased, the economy is still under duress from the intensified viral outbreak.

The chronically high pace of applications shows that many employers are still slashing jobs even nearly nine months after the pandemic struck the nation.

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.

5:19 p.m: Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak back in office after being diagnosed with COVID-19

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said Tuesday he has returned to his office following the completion of self-isolation he began after being diagnosed with COVID-19 in mid-November, according to the Associated Press.

The governor said on Twitter that he and his team were continuing to work on behalf of Nevadans affected by the pandemic, and he thanked those who sent him well wishes.

Sisolak, a Democrat, isolated at the Governor’s Mansion in Carson City. He announced on Nov. 13 that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and said three days later that he was only experiencing mild head congestion.

He was diagnosed as the state saw a spike in coronavirus cases that’s now straining its hospital system.

5:15 p.m.: Photo at Reno facility fuels false claims over coronavirus

With cases of coronavirus surging in Nevada, false claims calling the pandemic a made-up crisis are swirling on social media, according to the Associated Press.

Social media users are sharing a doctor’s selfie from an alternative care site in Reno to make it appear no one is using the facility. Renown Regional Medical Center, which operates the auxiliary site in a parking garage, has been a primary target of other false claims suggesting that hospitals are empty in the state, which recently surpassed 150,000 virus cases.

President Donald Trump shared the photo Tuesday in a tweet criticizing the election results in the state.

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.

5:45 p.m.: California to get 327,000 vaccine doses later this month

A coronavirus vaccine is on the way, at least for some at first. 

California will get 327,000 doses of a vaccine from Pfizer later this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday. After a person received their first dose of the vaccine, a required second dose will be delivered and given about three weeks later. A vaccine from a second company — Moderna — is also nearing approval.

Newsom said later this week, he’ll unveil a plan for who will get vaccinated first. He has previously said health care workers will be among the first to get a vaccine, and other Californians shouldn’t expect a COVID-19 inoculation until next spring or summer.

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.

5:45 p.m.: California to get 327,000 vaccine doses later this month

A coronavirus vaccine is on the way, at least for some at first. 

California will get 327,000 doses of a vaccine from Pfizer later this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday. After a person received their first dose of the vaccine, a required second dose will be delivered and given about three weeks later. A vaccine from a second company — Moderna — is also nearing approval.

Newsom said later this week, he’ll unveil a plan for who will get vaccinated first. He has previously said health care workers will be among the first to get a vaccine, and other Californians shouldn’t expect a COVID-19 inoculation until next spring or summer.

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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