Vaccine Wars Ignite in California as Lawmakers Seek Stronger Laws

Anti-vaccination activists say California’s Democratic lawmakers are helping strengthen their movement nationally by pushing for tougher vaccine requirements — without exemptions for religious or personal beliefs. But a new pro-vaccine lobbying force is vowing to fight back. (Angela Hart,

Bill Would Close Loophole, Force K-12 Students To Get Covid Shot: State Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) will announce Monday morning a bill to add covid-19 vaccines to California’s list of required inoculations for attending K-12 schools, a move that would close a loophole and override Gov. Gavin Newsom’s scaled-back mandate from last year. Read more from the Los Angeles Times.

In related school news –

No More Cloth Masks Allowed In LA Schools: Students in Los Angeles Unified School District will now be prohibited from wearing cloth masks, according to an announcement distributed Saturday by the district. Starting Monday, students must wear “well-fitted, non-cloth masks with a nose wire” at all times, including outdoors. Read more from the Los Angeles Times, Bay Area News Group and AP.

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

San Francisco Chronicle:
COVID Cases May Have Peaked, But Hospitals Still Face A Torrent Of Patients

This winter’s omicron surge — the most explosive wave yet of the 2-year-old coronavirus pandemic — may be cresting in the Bay Area, but hospitals expect more challenging weeks ahead as the astonishingly high case counts continue to translate into a torrent of patients. Though the highly infectious omicron variant is causing less severe illness than earlier strains of the coronavirus, this winter has in some ways been just as difficult for hospitals, health care staff and administrators say. They may have fewer very sick patients, but most hospitals are about as busy this year as last as they deal with staffing shortages caused by COVID on top of profound physical and emotional fatigue among workers. (Allday, 1/23)

San Francisco Chronicle:
COVID-Related Hospitalizations Are Rising In S.F. Data From UCSF Sheds Light On How Many Are ‘For’ COVID Or ‘With’ COVID

COVID-19-related hospitalizations in San Francisco have reached an all-time high. On Tuesday, the city reported 262 COVID-positive patients, three more than the maximum reached during last winter’s surge. Since then, hospitalizations have continued to rise. By Thursday, there were 274 COVID-related hospitalizations in the city, according to data from the California Department of Public Health. Along with this surge, an important distinction has become key to understanding COVID-related hospitalizations: Are patients being admitted for COVID or with COVID? (Sumida, 1/23)

City News Service:
LA County: Third Straight Drop In COVID Hospitalizations

The number of COVID-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals fell for the third day in a row, dropping from nearly 4,700 yesterday to 4,568, according to the latest state figures out on Sunday, Jan. 23. However, the number of those patients in intensive care continues to climb, increasing from 769 on Saturday to 774. (1/23)

Orange County Register:
Number Of Patients Hospitalized ‘With COVID’ Vs. ‘For COVID’ Is Shifting 

While hospitals are still under strain from an influx of patients and staff shortages due to quick spreading omicron variant, they’re now seeing a marked increase in patients who have COVID-19, but were admitted for some other medical issue. That’s a change from earlier waves of the pandemic, when a majority of people entering hospitals with COVID-19 had trouble breathing or low blood oxygen levels and often needed respiratory support. (Robinson, 1/21)

Los Angeles Times:
In South L.A., Busy Hospital Deals With More Widespread But Less Severe COVID Infections 

A man with painfully swollen legs from congestive heart failure lies on a gurney outside the emergency room, looking up at a leaden sky that is threatening rain. A wife helps her husband into a triage tent, after his dialysis center refused to admit him after a positive coronavirus test. Arriving at the emergency department of Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital, people are treated in field tents, hallways, cubicles, former administrative offices and ambulance bays. Many wait in the open air with coughs and sore throats to get tested for the coronavirus. Others come for all sorts of chronic diseases that perpetually curse South Los Angeles. (Mozingo, 1/23)

San Diego Union-Tribune:
Weary, But Still Showing Up, Front-Line Medical Workers Pray For Patience 

Once again, San Diego County’s health care workforce is being tested by a surge in coronavirus cases. But this new wave brings a cruel twist. Though the Omicron coronavirus variant causes less-severe symptoms, at least among those who are fully vaccinated, it’s much more infectious than last year’s versions. Droves of health care workers have tested positive, calling in sick and leaving whoever remains having to work that much harder to hold things together. (Sisson, 1/23)

Sacramento Bee:
CA Sends Out Pandemic Bonus Checks For In-Home Caregivers

The California Department of Social Services has begun mailing $500 bonus checks to more than 500,000 caregivers in the state. “Eligible (in-home supportive services) providers began receiving their payments on January 20, 2022,” said department spokesman Jason Montiel in an email. “It will take about a week to distribute them all.” (Sheeler, 1/23)

The New York Times:
Fauci, Cautiously, Says U.S. Wave Seems Like It’s Going In ‘Right Direction’ 

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, sounded cautiously optimistic on Sunday that the Omicron wave was peaking nationally in the United States and that the coronavirus cases could fall to manageable levels in the coming months. “What we would hope,” Dr. Fauci, President Biden’s top medical adviser for Covid-19, said during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” “is that, as we get into the next weeks to month or so, we’ll see throughout the entire country the level of infection get to below what I call that area of control.” (Chang, 1/24)

San Francisco Chronicle:
Can You Get Long COVID If You’re Vaccinated? Early Studies Offer Clues

Can vaccines also protect against long COVID? Thousands of people infected by the coronavirus before the arrival of vaccines last spring experienced symptoms lasting weeks or months beyond the initial illness. In many cases, the baffling aftereffects never disappeared. The frightening, often life-altering conditions include chronic fatigue, shortness of breath, vanished sense of smell, muscle weakness, brain fog and even psychosis. Now, with the highly infectious omicron variant sweeping the Bay Area and COVID cases still rising in some places, understanding whether the vaccine can halt persistent symptoms is critical. (Asimov, 1/22)

Bay Area News Group:
How One Person’s Cells Led To Our Only COVID Antibody Treatment For Omicron

Years ago, a survivor of a previous deadly pandemic gave a gift that is helping save desperately ill COVID-19 patients today. The donation – a blood sample holding infection-fighting cells from the deadly 2003 SARS outbreak – is the basis of a new Bay Area-designed therapy that is now the sole monoclonal antibody that can fend off the omicron variant, preventing serious illness or death, as traditional treatments fail. “Currently it’s the only monoclonal therapy that works,” said Dr. Warner Greene, director of Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology at UC San Francisco. (Krieger, 1/23)

The Mercury News:
U.S. Politicians Use COVID-19 To Raise Cash. Is That Healthy?

If you’re trying to guess the hottest issue in American political fundraising – and you picked the pandemic and the health measures aimed at vanquishing it – you’re probably right. While nobody tracks how much money any one topic can raise for any one candidate, a quick scan of recent solicitations from nationally known Republicans and Democrats shows many seem to see COVID-19 as the cash cow of the 2022 election cycle. (Mouchard, 1/24)

Researchers Look For Ways To Improve Detecting Omicron In Rapid Antigen Tests 

How much should you trust the results of a rapid antigen test? That’s a question many people are asking these days, amid recent research and anecdotes suggesting these tests may be less sensitive to omicron. Researchers are working fast to figure out what’s going on and how to improve the tests. That includes people like Dr. Wilbur Lam, a professor of pediatrics and biomedical engineering at Emory University and one of the lead investigators assessing COVID-19 diagnostic tests for the federal government. His research team began evaluating rapid antigen tests against live samples of the omicron variant last December in the lab, and in early assessments, he says, some tests failed to detect the coronavirus “at a concentration that we would have expected them to catch it if it were another variant.” (Godoy, 1/23)

COVID Work Rules: A Guide For California Workers

A new cough. The beginnings of a fever. A note from your boss about a COVID case at work. As omicron ripples across California, workers are learning they’ve been exposed and coming down with symptoms. What happens next? There are rules employers and workers are supposed to follow to keep workplaces safe and limit the spread of the virus. (1/24)

‘Shouldn’t Have To Make This Decision’: Thousands Of Contra Costa Students Stay Home, Citing Omicron Fears 

Nearly one-third of students in West Contra Costa Unified have not been attending school over the past three weeks, creating a crisis for the East Bay school district. The district – which covers the cities of Richmond, San Pablo, El Cerrito, Pinole and Hercules and enrolls some 27,000 students – reported 737 student and 70 staff COVID cases from Jan. 11-14. But even students who are not positive or quarantining are choosing to remain at home, out of fear they will be next to get the virus. On Jan. 14, for example, district attendance figures show 8,820 students were absent, while 17,440 attended. (McEvoy, 1/22)

Santa Cruz Sentinel:
Santa Cruz Schools To Assume All Students Have Been Exposed To COVID

Last week, Santa Cruz High School issued a “Substantial Exposure” notice to all Cardinal parents, but the notice does not mean there are major COVID-19 breakouts happening in Santa Cruz schools. Rather, “Substantial Exposure” is just another step in the school’s protocol to mitigate the spread of the virus, according to district Communications Director Sam Rolens. When a school goes into a substantial exposure event, it triggers new protocol that allows it to better manage who has contracted the virus. (Stuart, 1/24)

Fresno Bee:
How Medi-Cal Expansion Could Help Undocumented Californians 

Honduran immigrant Sergio Tulio Arévalo Soliz suffered chest pains, heart palpitations and shortness of breath for four days before arriving at Adventist Health Hospital in Hanford on Jan. 6. Doctors told the 42-year-old Soliz he needed emergency heart surgery but the undocumented Fresno County farmworker is uninsured and doesn’t qualify for full-scope Medi-Cal. He couldn’t afford to pay for the surgery, so he told the doctor to discharge him. (Lopez, 1/23)

Sacramento Bee:
‘I Accepted I Was Going To Die.’ Uninsured Californians Make Tough Health Care Decisions 

Honduran immigrant Sergio Tulio Arévalo Soliz suffered chest pains, heart palpitations and shortness of breath for four days before arriving at Adventist Health Hospital in Hanford on Jan. 6. Doctors told the 42-year-old Soliz he needed emergency heart surgery but the undocumented Fresno County farmworker is uninsured and doesn’t qualify for full-scope Medi-Cal. He couldn’t afford to pay for the surgery, so he told the doctor to discharge him. (Lopez, 1/23)

Modesto Bee:
Newsom Plan Extends CalFresh To Older Undocumented Californians

Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed extending public food assistance programs to undocumented immigrants ages 55 and over, a move advocates say is the first step in curbing food insecurity for millions of low-income Californians. The plan, which is included in Newsom’s $286 billion state budget proposal, would allocate about $35 million to expand CalFresh eligibility, among other food assistance benefits, to all low-income residents ages 55 and over regardless of immigration status. (Lopez, 1/24)

Sacramento Bee:
Sutter Health Sued By Five Workers For ‘Corrosive’ Cleanser Use

Sutter Health faced high rates of infection in its hospitals from a germ that causes severe diarrhea, and to combat the problem, the company procured a cleanser so noxious that dozens of employees have reported illnesses after using it, according to a lawsuit filed in Alameda Court earlier this week. The new product, Ecolab’s OxyCide, was cheaper than a two-step cleaning process that workers had previously used, saving Sacramento-based Sutter millions of dollars, attorneys alleged in a suit that seeks class-action status to represent 1,800 environmental services workers. (Anderson, 1/19)

NBC News:
Recreational Marijuana Sales Showered States With Cash In 2021

Legal, recreational-use marijuana sales boomed across the United States in 2021, reaching new levels in nearly a dozen states. Nationwide, those sales generated more than $3 billion in tax revenue for 11 states, including California, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan and Nevada. That’s higher than the $2.7 billion collected from the 10 states that allowed recreational marijuana sales in 2020, according to a report from the Marijuana Policy Project. (Ramos, 1/21)

The Washington Post:
Most Adults Don’t Consume The Recommended Amount Of Fruits And Vegetables 

Although fruits and vegetables are considered a key part of healthy eating, most U.S. adults are not consuming enough of them, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It found that only 12 percent of adults consume 1½ to 2 cups of fruit daily, the amount recommended by the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Even fewer — just 10 percent — eat the suggested 2 to 3 cups of vegetables daily. (Searing, 1/23)

NBC News:
‘Indelible Mark Of Shame’: L.A. Pivots To Clearing Homeless Camps Amid Covid Surge, Housing Crisis

Montgomery Garnett clung to his incense, quietly attempting to convince Los Angeles police officers that he was breaking no law by sitting on the sidewalk. Every day he lights incense on the same corner in the heart of the Skid Row neighborhood, less than a mile from the trendy Japanese restaurants of Little Tokyo and the hip haunts of the Arts District. Across the street, a small dog barked as a woman yelled from her tent: “He needs housing!” (Lozano, 1/23)

San Francisco Chronicle:
After Concerns Of Racism In Home Appraisals, What Will It Take To Fix The $156 Billion Racial Housing Gap?

Late last year, members of a Black family from the North Bay alleged that an appraiser lowballed them by hundreds of thousands of dollars before they “whitewashed” their home. It was only after they removed personal items and asked a white friend to stand in for a second appraisal, according to the family’s lawsuit, that the home’s perceived value shot up by $487,500. The case was an extreme example of similar complaints by non-white homeowners from Oakland to Stockton to Los Angeles, putting high-priced California at the center of a national debate over how to address concerns about lingering racism in the home appraisal process. (Hepler, 1/23)


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