San Francisco Revamps Its Indoor Mask Mandate: San Francisco will lift indoor mask requirements Tuesday for offices, gyms and other places where stable groups of vaccinated people gather. This time, everyone in those settings must also have received booster shots, if eligible, to go maskless. Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle, Bay Area News Group, KQED, AP and Los Angeles Times. Scroll down for more news on covid mandates. 

Halted Disability Claims Were Mostly Scams, California Says: After suspending 345,000 disability checks because of fraud concerns, California officials on Thursday said nearly all of those claims were associated with criminals trying to trick the state into paying them. Read more from the Los Angeles Times.

Below, check out the roundup of California Healthline’s coverage. For today’s national health news, read KHN’s Morning Briefing.

Santa Cruz Sentinel:
Good, Bad And Ugly: Santa Cruz County COVID Dashboard Update Yields New Discoveries

The most recent developments reflected on the Santa Cruz County coronavirus data dashboard presented a metaphorical mixed bag. On one hand, cases recorded in the last 14 days were increasing less rapidly than one week ago. On the other, two more people died after contracting COVID-19. Both of the deceased were white women who were vaccinated but had not received a booster shot. The first was a mid-county resident in her early 90s who had no other significant health conditions that would have contributed to her death, according to Health Services Agency Spokesperson Corinne Hyland. The second was a north county resident in her late 80s who had one significant health condition that likely contributed to her death, Hyland said. (Hartman, 1/28)

The Bakersfield Californian:
Kern County Reaches A Grim Milestone: Over 2,000 COVID Deaths 

Kern County reached a grim milestone on Thursday: More than 2,000 of its residents have died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Kern County Public Health announced 17 new COVID deaths Thursday, bringing the tally of COVID deaths in Kern County to 2,005. The milestone comes as the county is still tallying numbers from 2021, which also marks the year that the first two children in Kern County died of COVID. (Gallegos, 1/27)

Sacramento Bee:
Omicron Subvariant In California: What To Know In Sacramento 

The coronavirus pandemic is in another bout of deja vu, as the World Health Organization warned people this week that a subvariant of omicron is spreading across the world. Dubbed BA.2, the subvariant is not a “variant of concern,” the WHO said, but has been traveling in Denmark, India and the United Kingdom. And now it’s in California. (Truong, 1/28)

Los Angeles Daily News:
What Our Poop Is Telling Us About The Omicron Surge 

Not everyone who comes down with COVID-19 gets tested. And even for those who do, depending on the type of test used, the results may never be counted among official case statistics. But everyone poops. And because the virus that causes COVID-19 can be shed not just from your nose and mouth but from stool as well, flushing that waste into a sewage system can help public health officials monitor virus levels in your community. Recently, all of those flushes are adding to the signs officials are seeing that the omicron surge may be peaking in Southern California. (Johnson, 1/27)

Sacramento Bee:
Can You Escape COVID If Someone In Your Home Catches It? 

If someone in your home catches COVID-19, there’s basically no escaping it, right? Actually, that turns out not to be the case, even with the more easily transmissible omicron coronavirus variant sweeping the United States, experts say. “Some people manage to escape even though they’re in close quarters with others,” Dr. William Schaffner, a professor in the division of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University, told SFGate. (Sweeney, 1/27)

Modesto Bee:
Tuolumne Jail Releases Inmates Early Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

The Tuolumne County Jail is releasing 13 inmates early because of a COVID-19 outbreak. All of them are nonviolent offenders within 30 days of their planned release, the Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post Wednesday night. Another 16 inmates in three housing units have tested positive for the virus. The overall jail population was cut by 50% to reduce the risk of further spread, the post said. (Holland, 1/27)

Los Angeles Times:
California Settlement Limits ICE From Re-Detaining Immigrants Freed Because Of COVID 

Immigration authorities must preserve coronavirus safety measures that allow for social distancing and vaccination mandates for staff and detainees at two California detention facilities, according to a class-action lawsuit settlement reached Thursday. The settlement also limits the authority of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to re-detain hundreds of immigrants who were released as a result of the lawsuit. The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups filed the lawsuit in April 2020, in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, to challenge unsafe conditions at the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Facility in Bakersfield and the Yuba County Jail, north of Sacramento. (Castillo, 1/27)

Omicron Surge Strains California Police Agencies 

Up and down California, the contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus has shaken the state’s labor market. Hospitals are understaffed. Schools are low on teachers and substitutes. And law enforcement officers and first responders — who are increasingly exposed to risky, one-on-one contacts and super-spreader events — are having to make do with fewer people. Since the surge began in December, law enforcement agencies have been forced to increase overtime, reduce services and reroute non-emergency calls to online portals, according to a CalMatters survey of more than 30 agencies statewide. (Lyons, 1/27)

Los Angeles Times:
Rams-49ers Football, Lunar New Year Pose New COVID-19 Challenge For California 

California is on the downslope of yet another coronavirus surge as it enters another season of celebration. Numerous family gatherings and community events are scheduled to mark the Lunar New Year next week. And the L.A. Rams and the San Francisco 49ers will duke it out at SoFi Stadium on Sunday with a trip to the Super Bowl — scheduled in Inglewood two weeks later — on the line. But as California’s experience illustrates all too clearly, celebration without caution could wind up prolonging a pandemic already set to enter its third year. (Lin II and Money, 1/28)

Watchdog Says Key Federal Health Agency Is Failing On Crises

The shortfalls include managing the medical supply chain, coordinating with federal and state agencies and providing clear and consistent communication to the public and the health care community, the GAO said. The report is part of the GAO’s evaluation of the government’s pandemic response. It was released as senators of both parties came out with draft legislation this week calling for a close study of the pandemic and an overhaul of HHS’ capabilities. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 1/27)

What’s In The California Paid Sick Leave Deal For Workers And Businesses? 

California workers will soon again have access to as much as two weeks paid time off for COVID-related sick leave, under a deal announced Thursday by the governor and legislative leaders. The agreement comes amid the continued omicron surge and the resulting labor shortage across the state’s workforce, including health care, schools and public transit. And it may be just in time: The number of Californians who were not working in the last month because they or a family member had COVID-19 increased by 320%, according to a California Budget and Policy Center analysis of census data. (Kamal, 1/27)

White House Mulling Scaled-Down, Covid-Related Paid Leave Plan 

The White House is exploring a push for a coronavirus-related paid leave program akin to that enacted in an earlier round of pandemic relief, three people familiar with the conversations said Thursday. It would be much more narrowly tailored than the 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for all workers Biden proposed in his original social spending package, Build Back Better. When opposition from moderates crumbled efforts to pass the legislation, hopes for that program — or even a dramatically scaled-down version — collapsed. (Mueller, 1/27)

Los Angeles Times:
Don’t Be Fooled By Fake COVID Test Scammers. Here’s What To Avoid 

Among the pandemic’s many challenges has been the rise of scammers using phone calls, text messages, social media and door-to-door visits to perpetuate COVID-19-related cons. Both the federal Department of Health and Human Services and the state attorney general’s office have issued warnings this month, with California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta saying scammers were taking advantage of a shortage of COVID tests to exploit vulnerable people trying to find out if they have the virus. (Garcia, 1/27)

The Wall Street Journal:
Which At-Home Covid Test Is Best For You? PCR-Like Gadgets Vs. Rapid Antigen Kits 

It’s Friday and you’ve got a scratchy throat and a mild headache. Time to play “Cold? Covid? Or Just Crazy?”—the only game more popular than Wordle. Or you could open up your medicine cabinet and power-on a small white box. Swab your nose with a Lego-like stick, then slide that into the illuminated gadget. About 20 minutes later, your iPhone buzzes: “COVID-19 Positive.” (Stern, 1/27)

San Francisco Chronicle:
Oakland Joins San Francisco And Berkeley In Requiring Proof Of Vaccination In Restaurants, Bars And Gyms

As Oakland prepares to enforce a new mandate Tuesday that requires patrons to show proof of COVID vaccination in indoor restaurants, bars, theaters, clubs and other establishments, many business owners said they welcome the new policy. Oakland is the latest Bay Area city to embrace the policy. In August, San Francisco became the first major city in the country to require proof of full vaccination in some indoor businesses. A month later, Berkeley followed. (Rovani, 1/27)

Los Angeles Times:
For Many COVID-19 Vaccine Opponents, No Jab Means No Job

Even as the nation approaches the third year of the pandemic — with the Omicron variant breaking infection records and a growing death toll of more than 878,000 — a defiant 24% of the population has received no vaccine shots at all. Facing court defeats, the Biden administration backed away this week from requiring large employers to mandate vaccines. So did Starbucks, which until recently was one of the largest U.S. companies to mandate its workers get vaccinated. (Kaleem and Lee, 1/28)

San Francisco Chronicle:
S.F. Supervisor: Unvaccinated Kyrie Irving Should Be Barred From Warriors Game

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving, who cannot play in home games because of New York City’s vaccine requirements, will square off against the Warriors on Saturday at Chase Center — and San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney is not happy about it. San Francisco has a similar mandate requiring all spectators, and Warriors players, to be fully vaccinated to gain entry to the arena. Irving and other unvaccinated visiting players are exempt from the health order, provided they test negative for the coronavirus. (Kroichick, 1/27)

San Francisco Chronicle:
Should You Get A Second Booster Shot? Here’s What UCSF’s Dr. Bob Wachter Thinks

As some countries begin to offer a second booster shot — a fourth dose — of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, should you consider getting one? Given the data that exists right now, Dr. Bob Wachter, chair of medicine at UCSF, says he would skip it. The doctor took to Twitter to explain that the situation is complicated, and as with most things concerning the virus, rapidly evolving. (Echeverria, 1/27)

NBC News:
Moderna’s Omicron Booster Won’t Be Ready Before Summer

Moderna plans to seek authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for its omicron-specific Covid-19 vaccine booster by the summer, the company’s chief medical officer said Thursday — a time frame that means that the targeted vaccine may not be available to the public until the second half of the year. Dr. Paul Burton, Moderna’s chief medical officer, told NBC News that the company is thinking ahead to the second half of 2022 when omicron may still be circulating widely. (Lovelace Jr., 1/27)

The Wall Street Journal:
Covid-19 Vaccine Booster Shot Cuts Omicron Death Risk By 95%, U.K. Study Shows 

Three shots of vaccine cut the risk of death from Covid-19 by 95% in those age 50 and older during the Omicron surge in the U.K., according to an early study that showed immunity from vaccination held up well against the worst effects of the disease even among older people who are most at risk. The analysis, by the U.K. Health Security Agency, offers a glimpse of how effective vaccination is against death from Omicron in a highly boosted population. The U.K. government in December hurried to offer boosters to everyone 16 and older, expanding a campaign that up to that point had only applied to people 50 and older, and those with certain health conditions. (Roland, 1/27)

Orange County Register:
After Face Mask Flap, Placentia-Yorba Linda School Board President Wants Virtual Meetings

After shutting down the last two meetings over face mask disputes, the president of the Placentia-Yorba Linda School Board has called for a special session next week with only one agenda item: Should the board hold meetings online for the next month? Board President Carrie Buck put out a Tweet Wednesday saying she wants trustees to vote on a resolution that would allow the board to resume virtual meetings for 30 days. (Kopetman, 1/27)

Modesto Bee:
Stanislaus Schools Post COVID-19 Cases Online In Omicron Surge 

Throughout this school year, parents have received calls or emails letting them know their child may have been exposed to COVID-19 at school. The message would at times arrive days late, due to contact tracing backlogs, but when it came, it would suggest next steps for testing and quarantine. Now, as cases spread throughout the county and its schools in large numbers, districts in Turlock and Oakdale have stopped calling or emailing families to directly inform them of exposures. (Isaacman, 1/27)

Moderna Begins Early-Stage Trials Of MRNA-Based HIV Vaccine 

Moderna has begun early-stage clinical trials of an HIV mRNA vaccine, the company announced this week. On Thursday, it administered the first doses of a shot it co-developed with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative to volunteers at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Like the company’s COVID-19 vaccine, the new treatment uses messenger RNA to “trick” the human body into producing proteins that will trigger an immune response. Moderna hopes the shot will induce a specific class of white blood cells known as B-cells, which can then turn into broadly neutralizing antibodies. Those proteins are “widely considered to be the goal of HIV vaccination, and this is the first step in that process,” according to the company. (Bonifacic, 1/27)

Moderna To Make MRNA HIV Vaccine In Partnership With AIDS Initiative

Moderna says its Phase 1 trial of the vaccine is testing a hypothesis the messenger RNA (mRNA) can induce and guide specific antibody cells towards maturing into broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAb). “The induction of bnAbs is widely considered to be a goal of HIV vaccination, and this is the first step in that process,” says Moderna. Mark Feinberg, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO of IAVI, says he and his initiative are “tremendously excited” to be advancing in this new HIV vaccine design using mRNA tech. (Rogers, 1/27)

Modesto Bee:
New Modesto Program Would Make Jobs, Services More Inclusive 

Modesto City Council members voted unanimously Tuesday to create a program to diversify the city’s workforce and make the services it offers more accessible to limited English speakers and those with disabilities. Additionally, a citizens commission will be created to advise the city on matters related to the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion program. (Briseño, 1/27)

San Francisco Chronicle:
If The Supreme Court Rolls Back The Clean Water Act, California Will Be Ready 

The Supreme Court appears ready to narrow the scope of the Clean Water Act, eliminating protections for many inland streams and wetlands that feed rivers, lakes and bays. But California is also ready, thanks to former President Donald Trump. When Trump tried to roll back federal regulation of inland waterways toward the end of his term, California stepped in with new pollution controls designed to protect those waters within the state’s borders — regulations that would largely fill the gap the Supreme Court seems poised to create by mid-2023. (Egelko, 1/27)

Blood Shortage 2022: US Hospitals Plead For Donations After Dropping In Pandemic

U.S. hospitals face a critical shortage of blood supplies, adding to the pressure on the health-care system already strained by surging Covid-19 cases. Ongoing blood shortages “could significantly jeopardize the ability of health care providers” to care for patients, the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and American Nurses Association said in a joint statement Thursday. “The need for blood has increased while staffing shortages and high rates of Covid-19 in communities have diminished donations,” the groups said. They said people shouldn’t be discouraged from donating if they can’t get appointments right away because the need is ongoing. (Muller, 1/27)

Two Powerful Drugs Now Adding To US Overdose Crisis 

Emerging reports show that two little-known drugs are making lethal new contributions to America’s drug overdose crisis. Para-fluorofentanyl and metonitazene are being seen more often by medical examiners looking into overdose deaths, according to a government report published Thursday. They often are taken with — or mixed with — illicit fentanyl, the drug mainly responsible for the more than 100,000 U.S. overdose deaths in the last year. (Stobbe, 1/27)

USA Today:
Colon Cancer Found In More Younger Adults. ‘Get Screened,’ Doctor Says

A growing number of young adults are being diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer, according to a new peer-reviewed study. Researchers from the University of Colorado School of Medicine examined data from 100,000 people with adenocarcinoma, an aggressive form of cancer that’s more likely to be caught in later stages. Some of the reasons for a rise in young adults could be linked to obesity, diet and environmental factors, according to the study. The study revealed that young patients ages 20 to 29 have seen the highest spike in rates of diagnosed colon cancer cases. That age group is also more likely to have a distant, less treatable form of cancer when officially diagnosed. (Gleeson, 1/27)

Daily Breeze:
Sheriff Forms Panel To Learn If Homeless Deaths Were Preventable 

Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Don Barnes is creating a panel to see whether the deaths of any homeless residents were preventable. The committee, which will include experts from both public and private sectors, will determine the root causes of death among Orange County’s homeless, sheriff’s officials said in a statement this week. The panel’s independent report will provide recommendations to Barnes. (Percy, 1/27)

California Homeless: Will Worker Shortage Disrupt Strategy?

Turnover has long plagued the homeless services field. COVID-19 has only made the problem worse as the omicron surge causes worker shortages across California’s economy. And without enough service workers, the state’s ambitious, multibillion-dollar strategy for reducing homelessness is unlikely to work.    Most people who enter social work know to expect small paychecks; they’re driven by compassion and a desire for positive change. But caring too much can be crushing when housing is elusive, mental health services scant, and communication splintered among the myriad entities who decide the fate of the unhoused. (Tobias, 1/27)

Los Angeles Times:
We Pleaded For Social Distancing Here In San Quentin. The State Refused, And Now COVID Is Raging 

I am fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19. I do everything I can to follow the CDC’s guidelines for protecting myself against infection. Yet I fear catching COVID-19 a second time from the sick people all around me in San Quentin State Prison. I am one of 300 plaintiffs who sued the state of California, seeking a court order that would have forced prison officials to ease overcrowding and house one person to each cell, instead of two. Our goal was to increase social distancing in the enclosed, unventilated housing units that are packed at well more than 100% of intended capacity. (Juan Moreno Haines, 1/28)

Modesto Bee:
Clearing Up Stanislaus COVID Emergency Declaration Myths 

To all the people who paraded to the microphone at Tuesday’s Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors meeting apparently thinking that revoking a local emergency declaration would have a meaningful impact on their lives, here’s a news flash: It won’t. They had passion and fervor. They exercised the privilege of publicly addressing our leaders — for about two hours, stridently demanding that supervisors cancel the COVID-19 emergency declaration. And unfortunately, all seemed misinformed about what an emergency declaration is, and who has power over it. (Garth Stapley, 1/27)

The Washington Post:
Vaccine Skeptics Deserve Answers, Not Dangerous Lies 

Science is a journey in pursuit of truth, often extracted from confounding unknowns. In the midst of the worst public health disaster in a century, the scientist’s job is hard enough — so no one should tolerate those who deliberately spread falsehoods and misinformation. Millions of Americans who are hesitant about vaccines deserve honest answers, but they do not deserve what they are being told by Robert Malone and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (1/25)

San Francisco Chronicle:
Should Kids Wear Masks In Schools? Maybe Not

When several physicians, including three from UCSF, launched a campaign called Urgency of Normal to help parents and educators to frame the risk of COVID in schools and re-evaluate policies like universal masking, they were swiftly met with a Tweetstorm, #urgencyofequity, and accusations of spreading disinformation and promoting “racist, ableist, classist TRASH,” as one scientist put it. “I have never seen a document that was so dangerous for our children,” Kaliris Salas-Ramirez, a City University of New York professor and founder of Parents for Responsive Equitable and Safe Schools posted on Thursday. (Jennifer Block, 1/27)

San Francisco Chronicle:
For Parents With Young Kids, 2022 Is Starting To Feel Like 2020 All Over Again

Strict childcare quarantine policies at preschools have resulted in repeated closures of classrooms for isolated coronavirus cases. Parents are missing work for extended periods of time with no relief in sight. As pediatricians, we’ve had many difficult conversations with parents of our patients, who tell us they have missed so many days of work that they may not be able to pay rent and are concerned about losing their jobs entirely. (Amy Beck and Mayssa Abuali, 1/28)

The Mercury News:
California Single-Payer Bill Shows State Can’t Go It Alone

The United States must switch to a more cost-effective system to remain competitive in the global marketplace. But that requires a prudent financial plan that drives down costs, improves health care outcomes for all and has the support of business and labor. The single-payer legislation proposed by Assemblyman Ash Kalra, D-San Jose, and under consideration in the California Legislature fails to meet that standard. It’s small wonder that Gov. Gavin Newsom, who campaigned in favor of single-payer health care, has remained largely silent on the Kalra proposal. (1/26)

Los Angeles Times:
California Must Do More To Get Rid Of Bad Doctors 

California’s system for getting bad doctors out of the profession is obviously not working. If it were, we would not read that a Bakersfield doctor got his license back after pleading no contest to a criminal charge of sexual exploitation by a physician. Nor would a Victorville doctor who inappropriately touched two teenage patients during exams still be allowed to practice. Those examples were detailed in a Times investigation last month that found the Medical Board of California has since 2013 reinstated 10 physicians who lost their licenses for sexual misconduct. (1/25)

Sacramento Bee:
CA Leaders Must Fund The Fight Against Domestic Violence 

Brad Wheat, a father and off-duty California Highway Patrol officer, reportedly killed his former partner, Mary Wheat, a mother and CrossFit coach. After wounding her boyfriend, Trae Debeaubien, Brad Wheat died by suicide. This was a devastating loss for the Wheat family and the close-knit Amador County community. Heartbreaking events like this are not spur-of-the-moment. They are domestic violence: an abusive pattern taking away someone’s autonomy, controlling their behavior, chipping away at their self-esteem and limiting access to family and friends. Domestic violence affects an estimated 3.3 million Californians yearly as well as countless friends, family and community members. (Jessica Merrill, 1/26)

Los Angeles Times:
Port Pollution Is Surging. Let Regulators Do Their Job To Protect Public Health 

One reason Southern California’s air has been so dirty recently is a big increase in diesel emissions from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Supply chain problems, a backup of container ships and record cargo volumes have caused a surge in lung-damaging pollution, worsening smog from the harbor area to the Inland Empire. Fine-particle pollution in downtown L.A. in November jumped to levels more than 40% higher than in previous years. (1/28)

Sacramento Bee:
Sacramento Mayor Fails To Lead In Homelessness Crisis 

Everyone has witnessed the depressing squalor, tent encampments, cars used as makeshift homes and seemingly endless garbage choking downtown Sacramento. Many theories exist about why the homeless situation has grown so exponentially — some speculate that it’s due mostly to mental health issues and substance abuse, while others point to a lack of housing. It is clearly a combination of factors. But mostly, homelessness has proliferated because of a lack of leadership. (Matt Rexroad, 1/26)