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Los Angeles Times:
L.A. County Sets New Daily Record With 45,000 Coronavirus Cases 


Los Angeles County reached another daily record of coronavirus cases as health officials on Sunday reported more than 45,000 new infections. The county recorded 45,584 new cases amid the surge in infections driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus, according to figures released by the county’s Department of Public Health. The department also reported 13 new deaths, bringing the county’s total number of deaths to 27,785 since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Vega, 1/9)


CalMatters:
California Weighs Order Canceling Elective Surgeries As COVID Surges 


Throughout California, as COVID-19 infections deplete their staff of nurses, anesthesiologists and other essential workers, hospitals are canceling or postponing so-called “elective” surgeries to repair injured knees and aching back, remove kidney or bladder stones, and repair cataracts or hernias, among other procedures. Alarmed by a growing shortage of specialized health care workers, the California Department of Public Health is evaluating whether to issue an order to hospitals statewide to suspend elective surgeries in cases in which patients wouldn’t be immediately harmed. (Feder Ostrov, 1/9)


Modesto Bee:
COVID Leads Turlock To Close City Offices At Least 2 Weeks


An increase in the number of COVID-19 cases affecting city employees had led Turlock to close its offices and other facilities to the public through at least Jan. 21, according to a news release Saturday night. The closures take effect immediately. “We have detected a noticeable increase in COVID cases affecting our work force in what appears to be an aggressive spread of the virus,” Interim City Manager Sarah Tamey Eddy said in the release. “To do our best to protect the public and our employees, we’ve decided to close city offices to the public and reinstate work schedules that emphasize physical distancing.” (Farrow, 1/9)


SF Gate:
Got COVID And Live In California? A Guide To The Confusing Isolation Guidelines


If you tested positive for COVID-19 or were exposed to the virus, you may be confused by the guidelines asking you to stay home. How many days do you need to stay home — is it five or 10? Do you need a negative test to leave your house? Things are changing fast and it’s confusing, especially in California where guidelines don’t line up exactly with those from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Graff, 1/9)


Orange County Register:
OC Congresswoman Young Kim Tests Positive For COVID-19 


Rep. Young Kim, R-La Habra, announced in a tweet Saturday, Jan. 8, that she has tested positive for COVID-19. Kim, 59, who represents parts of Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, said she was feeling fine and that she had received both vaccinations and a booster shot. While she recovers, Kim said she “will be proxy voting as I monitor my symptoms.” (Lee and Antonios, 1/8)


Sacramento Bee:
Too Many 911 Calls In COVID Surge, San Francisco Says 


Officials in San Francisco are asking residents to limit 911 calls and hospital emergency room visits as the city grapples with a surge in COVID-19 cases. Calls to 911 dispatchers are averaging 400 a day, a 30% spike over the normal daily average of 300 to 330 calls, Fire Chief Jeanine Nicholson told KRON. (Sweeney, 1/9)


Bay Area News Group:
Pharmacists Face Pandemic Burnout, Too


Everyone knows that doctors and nurses are burned out from COVID-19, facing staffing shortages, full emergency rooms and COVID exposures — but one group of health care workers has been overlooked and face its own set of COVID-related difficulties: pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. “Most pharmacists who’ve been in the field for a while, have been telling students ‘just stop, don’t go to pharmacy school, do something else, anything else,’” one clinical pharmacist in Boston said. “I’m hoping that the people who are going into pharmacy school are doing it because they truly have a passion for it and will fight for it and want to do nothing else with their lives.” (Sokolow, 1/9)


CBS News:
COVID-19 Symptoms And The Omicron Variant: What The Latest Studies Show


Doctors studying Omicron’s spread around the world have found new clues to the pattern of symptoms caused by the highly-mutated COVID-19 variant, which a growing number of reports suggest might show up differently and faster compared to the Delta variant it is now displacing. … A sore throat ranked among the most common early Omicron symptoms, as well as congestion, a dry cough and lower back pain. The incubation period — the time from infection to symptoms appearing — was as short as three days. That’s several days faster than previous strains of the virus. (Tin, 1/7)


San Francisco Chronicle:
Think ‘Mild’ Omicron Is No Big Deal? Here’s What Long COVID Symptoms Feel Like


People seem to think COVID-19 is a binary — you either die or you get better. (You might even be lucky enough to get better after being asymptomatic.) But there’s actually a third path, which is long COVID. You don’t die, but you don’t get better, either, and are left with debilitating symptoms that might be permanent. And no one is sounding the alarm about the risk of disability from “mild” cases of COVID. (Seiberg, 1/8)


San Francisco Chronicle:
Forming A Picture Of What Life Could Be Like After The Omicron Surge


Even as the omicron variant of the coronavirus fuels an unprecedented surge in cases across the Bay Area, many health experts say there’s reason to be hopeful that the region will come out the other side of this wave better protected than before, and further along the path toward a less chaotic coexistence with COVID. The Bay Area’s omicron swell already has hit record levels in the now 2-year-old pandemic, and it probably won’t top out until later this month. Lately, more than 10,000 coronavirus cases a day on average are being reported across the region — double the peak of last winter’s surge. (Allday, 1/9)


Bay Area News Group:
How Does COVID-19 End? Experts Offer Predictions


As it races around the world, the COVID-19 omicron variant shows tantalizing hints that it could morph into the ideal virus: highly transmissible, to be sure, but tamed by vaccines and milder than previous, sometimes deadly versions. Yet the evolutionary arms race between humans and the virus is far from over, say biologists. This new relationship could get better — or suddenly worse. (Krieger, 1/9)


Orange County Register:
Will COVID-19 Plague Us Forever? Here’s What The Experts Say 


Years from now, when 2020 is a distant memory, a face mask will still dangle from your rear-view mirror, one epidemiologist predicts. “As long as any of your readers are alive, we’ll have some form of COVID,” said Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and demographer at UC Irvine, whose crystal ball on the pandemic has been unnervingly accurate. (Sforza, 1/9)


Sacramento Bee:
Gov. Newsom Sending National Guard To COVID Testing Sites 


California Gov. Gavin Newsom has activated the California National Guard to help at COVID-19 testing sites as the omicron coronavirus variant surges throughout the state. In a Friday news release from the governor’s office, Newsom said that the National Guard personnel will boost capacity at the sites. (Moleski, 1/8)


San Diego Union-Tribune:
California National Guard Will Help At Testing Sites As Demand Overwhelms Capacity


In a fresh sign that coronavirus testing capacity is stretched beyond its limits, the state will deploy National Guard members to 50 testing sites it operates across California, including six in San Diego County. Soldiers and airmen, between two and four per site, were expected to begin pitching in at state-run locations in Linda Vista, Chula Vista, El Cajon, Escondido, National City and Oceanside Saturday, said Lt. Col. Jonathan Shiroma, chief of media relations for the California National Guard. (Sisson, 1/8)


San Francisco Chronicle:
California Officials Warn Against Price Gouging Of Home Coronavirus Test Kits


With coronavirus tests nearly impossible to find in the Bay Area — and San Francisco health officials saying they will limit testing early this week because of “challenges beyond our control” — California officials are now warning against price gouging for at-home test kits. California Attorney General Rob Bonta issued a consumer alert Saturday about sellers charging exorbitant prices for over-the-counter rapid tests, after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order over the weekend limiting sellers’ markups. Unauthorized test sites also are becoming a concern, San Francisco health officials warned. (Flores, 1/9)


San Diego Union-Tribune:
County Warns Of Fake COVID-19 Testing Sites 


As lines grow ever longer at COVID-19 testing sites, county health officials are warning that some pop-up operations may be unlicensed and out to scam people. San Diego County Chief Medical Officer Eric McDonald said he personally encountered an unlicensed testing station near the Old Town Transit Center and could quickly tell it was not legitimate. (Warth, 1/8)


Sacramento Bee:
Officials Warn Of Fake ‘Pop-Up’ COVID-19 Testing Sites 


The demand for COVID-19 testing has surged in recent weeks as the highly contagious omicron variant drives cases across the U.S. With it comes new warnings from state and federal officials who are urging consumers to be careful about where they get tested. Reports of unauthorized “pop-up” testing sites have officials sounding the alarm about scammers taking advantage of the pandemic to get to people’s money and personal information. (Kenney, 1/9)


San Francisco Chronicle:
Some S.F. Testing Sites Cut Hours Today


Even as the omicron variant fuels an unprecedented coronavirus surge across the Bay Area, many health experts say there’s reason to be hopeful that the region will come out the other side of this wave better protected than before. San Francisco officials are urging the public to use authorized testing sites or FDA-approved rapid tests because fake coronavirus testing sites are popping up in the city. California’s attorney general says people should be on guard against price gouging for at-home COVID-19 test kits, with Gov. Gavin Newsom signing an executive order limiting seller markups. (Buchmann, 1/10)


ABC News:
The Government Is Sending Free Rapid Tests, But Don’t Expect Them All Before Omicron’s Peak


The Biden administration’s plan to send 500 million at-home tests to Americans for free is an historic undertaking, but one that will take weeks or months to fully execute, recently released contracts and interviews with seven test manufacturers suggest. Contracts for the first two batches of tests were announced on Friday, one for 13.3 million kits from a health technology company and another for an undisclosed amount from a distribution company in Virginia that had extras on hand — all to be distributed in an effort to reduce the massive testing shortage in the U.S. (Haslett and Abdelmalek, 1/10)


The Washington Post:
Rapid Tests Are Crucial Despite Reduced Sensitivity To Omicron, Experts Say


At-home rapid coronavirus tests remain the “bedrock of our long-term strategy for managing this virus,” said Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health — even in the face of new research that suggests they may be less effective at identifying illness caused by the omicron variant. The antigen tests, commonly referred to as rapid or at-home tests, “remain a very, very effective tool,” Jha said on ABC’s “This Week.” He noted that “in the first day of symptoms” with omicron, “it does look like the test is a little less sensitive,” but beyond that, “these antigen tests continue to work really effectively.” (Pietsch and Hassan, 1/10)


Sacramento Bee:
California Now Requires Boosters, Negative COVID Test For Most Nursing Home Visits


Under a new state health order, people visiting residents of skilled nursing homes and similar adult care facilities in California must be fully vaccinated, boosted if eligible, and also produce a negative test result for COVID-19 in order to conduct most indoor visits. Those who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated, as well as those who are eligible for a booster dose but have not yet received one, may conduct an outdoor visit but must still show evidence of a negative test result. Visitors must also wear a mask and physically distance from all except the resident they are visiting. (McGough, 1/9)


Modesto Bee:
COVID Surge: Stanislaus Nursing Homes Restrict Visitations


Nursing homes are again clamping down on visitations, this time in an effort to prevent the COVID omicron variant from infecting vulnerable patients. Two blackboards posted outside the door of Brandel Manor in Turlock served notice that, effective Friday, the facility requires proof of the following from prospective visitors: vaccination status, booster status and a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the visit. (Carlson, 1/9)


AP:
Supreme Court Skeptical Of Biden’s Workplace Vaccine Rule 


Fully vaccinated and mostly masked, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority appeared skeptical Friday of the Biden administration’s authority to impose a vaccine-or-testing requirement on the nation’s large employers. The court seemed more open to a separate vaccine mandate for most health care workers. … Roberts and Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett probably hold the key to the outcome in both cases, as they have been more receptive to state-level vaccine requirements than the other three conservative justices. Barrett and Kavanaugh also had tough questions for Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, the administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer. (Sherman and Gresko, 1/7)


The Hill:
Federal Agencies Prepare To Act Against Unvaccinated Employees


Federal government agencies are preparing to take increasingly harsh steps against unvaccinated employees in order to implement President Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal workers.  Some agencies plan to send letters warning of possible suspensions to employees who have not complied with the mandate. Many are also prepared to fire employees who don’t follow the rule, though such moves would be further down the road. (Gangitano and Chalfant, 1/9)


AP:
Stay Home Or Work Sick? Omicron Poses A Conundrum 


As the raging omicron variant of COVID-19 infects workers across the nation, millions of those whose jobs don’t provide paid sick days are having to choose between their health and their paycheck. While many companies instituted more robust sick leave policies at the beginning of the pandemic, some of those have since been scaled back with the rollout of the vaccines, even though omicron has managed to evade the shots. Meanwhile, the current labor shortage is adding to the pressure of workers having to decide whether to show up to their job sick if they can’t afford to stay home. (D’Innocenzio and Durbin, 1/9)


Los Angeles Times:
LAUSD Sports Competitions Paused This Week Amid COVID Surge 


The Los Angeles Unified School District sent an email to parents Sunday night informing them that sports competitions scheduled for Monday through Friday will be postponed and rescheduled while the district monitors COVID-19 cases amid the Omicron variant surge. Athletes, drill teams and band members will be allowed to practice outdoors only and must be wearing a mask, according to the email. (Sondheimer, 1/9)


EdSource:
New Law On Mental Health Curriculum Goes Into Effect With Start Of The New Year 


Health classes in California high schools will soon cover more than nutrition and exercise. Thanks to a new law that went into effect Jan. 1, students will learn about depression, schizophrenia, mood disorders and other serious mental health conditions. Senate Bill 224 requires all school districts that offer health classes to include mental health as part of the curriculum. The California Department of Education has until Jan. 1, 2023 to incorporate mental health into the state standards, and districts have until Jan. 1, 2024 to begin teaching the new material. (Jones, 1/10)


Modesto Bee:
COVID Omicron Surge Changes Midterm Outlook For CA Democrats 


Gov. Gavin Newsom’s management of the COVID-19 crisis was a big reason he easily won last year’s recall effort. But political times have changed, the path to November success has become unpredictable, and incumbents –mostly Democrats – are at increasing risk of being victims of voter anger. When Newsom won the recall election in September, “vaccinations were up, boosters had been announced, Omicron had not yet appeared and kids were back in school. It looked like we might be reaching the end of the pandemic,” said Rose Kapolczynski, a California Democratic consultant. Now, though, positivity rates have soared, reaching an all-time high Friday. Hospitals are becoming overwhelmed and there’s new talk of lockdowns. The latest COVID-19 surge is triggering new, unanswerable political questions. (Lightman, 1/10)


CapRadio:
Single-Payer Health Care Is Back On The Table At The California Capitol 


This week, California lawmakers will take up the latest attempt to get all state residents covered under the same health plan — an idea referred to as single payer health care — that’s been sparking debate at the Capitol for the past five years. Under the new plan, dubbed CalCare, all Californians would be insured by the same entity and would be able to access any doctor, regardless of network. Supporters argue that this will reduce price gouging and give all residents equal access to care. (Caiola, 1/10)


The Washington Post:
ADA Knowledge Lacking Among Many Physicians 


The Americans With Disabilities Act has been in force for more than three decades. But do doctors understand their legal obligations under the law — and are they doing all they can to accommodate patients with disabilities? In a word: No. That’s the message of a study in Health Affairs that points to significant knowledge gaps among the providers — and suggests that nearly three-quarters of outpatient physicians don’t understand how to accommodate their patients’ disabilities. (Blakemore, 1/9)


Sacramento Bee:
Record Number Of Homeless Died In Sacramento In 2021


According to a Sacramento Bee analysis, at least 195 homeless men, women and children died in 2021 in Sacramento County, a county that continues to struggle to care for its most vulnerable. That number is significantly higher than the previous record, set in 2018, when 140 homeless people died, according to records kept by the Sacramento Coroner’s Office. The total for last year includes roughly 170 individuals who the coroner believed were homeless at the time of their deaths; some investigations are still ongoing and the number will likely change. Another 25 were not reported as homeless deaths by the coroner. However, family members, friends and advocates for the unhoused told The Bee they were homeless when they died. (Clift, 1/9)


Los Angeles Times:
Hundreds Died In L.A. Traffic Crashes In 2021 


Mayor Eric Garcetti’s goal of ending traffic deaths by 2025 looks increasingly unattainable following another year of rising fatalities and injuries caused by motorists. According to Los Angeles Police Department data through Dec. 25, 289 people were killed in traffic collisions last year, 21% more than the same period in 2020 and 19% over the same period in 2019. A total of 1,465 people were severely injured, a 30% increase over the same period in 2020. The LAPD defines severely injured as needing to be transported from the collision. (Smith, 1/9)


Los Angeles Times:
Study Predicts Rising Heat And Hardship In San Joaquin Valley 


Within three decades, the San Joaquin Valley’s annual average temperature could increase by 4 degrees, worsening water quality and health hazards in the impoverished communities of California’s agricultural heartland, according to a new regional climate change report. Those hit hardest by the increasing heat will be poor farming communities that lack the resources necessary to adapt, according to the UC Merced report. That conclusion was based on dozens of recent scientific studies on a variety of issues related to climate change, and assumes a worst-case scenario for global carbon emissions. (Sahagún, 1/10)

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