California Looks To Change Approach To Covid: California health officials next week will outline a new approach to dealing with the coronavirus that assumes it’s here to stay, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday, while condemning organized disinformation efforts that limit vaccinations critical to California entering the next stage. Read more from AP. 

Bay Area Indoor Masking Coming To An End: Eleven San Francisco Bay Area counties will lift their mask requirements for vaccinated people in most indoor public settings beginning Feb. 16, when the state also ends its indoor masking requirement for those vaccinated against the coronavirus. Read more from AP and the San Francisco Chronicle. Scroll down for more on mask mandates.

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

Los Angeles Times:
Most Of San Francisco Bay Area Will Lift Indoor Mask Order

Most of the San Francisco Bay Area will lift local indoor mask rules next week, with officials saying that the COVID-19 danger has fallen enough to safely take the crucial step. Along with Los Angeles County, the Bay Area has long had some of the strictest masking requirements in the state. But many officials there have decided now is the time to relax local mask orders for indoor public spaces for vaccinated people, although they continue to strongly recommend mask-wearing. Only Santa Clara County, home to Silicon Valley, is keeping indoor mask rules in the region for now. (Lin II and Money, 2/9)

What’s Your Bay Area County’s New Mask Mandate? 

Eight Bay Area counties — Alameda (including the City of Berkeley), Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Solano and Sonoma — announced Wednesday that they will lift indoor mask requirements for most public spaces starting Feb. 16. The move means nearly all of the Bay Area will be aligned with the state’s new masking guidance, which also goes into effect Feb. 16, following Monday’s confirmation from state health officials that California’s indoor mask mandate will expire on Feb. 15. Santa Clara is the only Bay Area county that will keep its indoor mask rule in place after the statewide mandate expires. County health officials stated Wednesday that they anticipate “[lifting] indoor masking requirements in a matter of weeks.” (Cabrera-Lomelí and Severn, 2/9)

San Francisco Chronicle:
All Bay Area Counties Except One Will Lift Indoor Mask Mandate Next Week

Eight of the nine Bay Area counties will follow state guidance and drop universal indoor mask mandates on Feb. 16, health officials said Wednesday — a dramatic gesture that reflects improving conditions across the region and a step toward tempering the public health response to the now 2-year-old pandemic. Health officials from Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Solano and Sonoma counties said in a joint statement that they will align with the state next week and will not keep in place local mask mandates that require that everyone wear face coverings indoors, regardless of vaccination status. Neighboring Monterey and Santa Cruz counties also plan to drop the mandate. Officials from all counties said that masking remains strongly recommended for everyone in public indoor settings. (Vaziri and Allday, 2/9)

The (Santa Rosa) Press Democrat:
Sonoma County And Other Bay Area Jurisdictions To Lift Mask Rules For Vaccinated Groups Next Week

Sonoma County will lift indoor masking restrictions for vaccinated groups in public spaces next week after the statewide universal mask mandate aimed at curbing spread of COVID-19 expires. Officials announced Wednesday morning that the county is loosening masking rules on Feb. 16, in coordination with other Bay Area counties, including Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Cruz and Solano. Berkeley and San Benito County are also lifting mask restrictions. (Espinoza, 2/9)

The (Santa Rosa) Press Democrat:
‘We Won’t Have To Be Mask Cops’: Reaction To Sonoma County’s Soon-To-Lapse Mask Mandate

Melody and Greg were on a date. Aglow with good health, and a bit of perspiration, the two Santa Rosa Junior College students had just emerged from the 24-Hour Fitness in Petaluma Wednesday morning, but hadn’t yet heard the news: Earlier that morning, health officials announced that, starting Feb. 16, and in concert with other Bay Area counties, Sonoma County will lift indoor masking restrictions for vaccinated groups in public spaces. That rule change follows the California Department of Public Health’s decision to not renew the statewide mask mandate that was enacted in mid-December as transmission of the omicron variant began to surge. “I’m definitely looking forward” to ditching his mask, said Greg, who assured a reporter that even though it’s a nuisance and hindrance when he’s pumping iron, he’s been good about keeping his mask over his nose and mouth — even when he sees others cheating. (Murphy, 2/9)

San Francisco Chronicle:
Santa Clara County Isn’t Following California In Lifting Its Mask Mandate. Here’s Why

While eight of the nine Bay Area counties announced Wednesday that they would be following the state’s new mask guidance allowing vaccinated people to unmask in most indoor situations, Santa Clara County announced that it wouldn’t be following suit. Instead, the Bay Area’s largest county will keep its indoor masking requirement and use its own metrics — based on vaccination, case numbers and hospitalizations — to determine when to drop the mandate instead. (Echeverria, 2/9)

Bay Area News Group:
COVID: Bay Area Counties Ease Mask Rule, But Not Santa Clara

Bay Area health officers Wednesday said they will follow the state’s lead next week and grant vaccinated people the freedom to unmask indoors in many settings, but Santa Clara County will keep its order in place for several more weeks, until case rates fall further. The counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, San Benito, Solano, Sonoma, and the city of Berkeley said that along with the state, they will lift universal mask requirements for the vaccinated in most indoor public spaces beginning Wednesday, Feb. 16. (Woolfolk, 2/9)

Napa Valley Register:
Napa County To Relax Mask Requirement For Vaccinated People Feb. 16

Napa County will join 10 other Bay Area counties next week in lifting mask-wearing mandates in public indoor areas for people vaccinated against the coronavirus. Effective Feb. 16, California counties will be allowed to end the masking requirement the state-imposed Dec. 15 as the highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19 sparked the latest infection surge of the two-year-long pandemic. (Yune, 2/9)

Berkeley, Alameda County Will Join State In Lifting Mask Mandate Feb. 16

Berkeley will drop its requirement that vaccinated people wear masks in most public indoor spaces on Feb. 16, health officials announced Wednesday, joining nearly all of the Bay Area and the state as a whole in ending face covering mandates next week. But city leaders noted businesses will have the option to require customers to mask up, and they cautioned that continuing to wear a face covering indoors is still “strongly recommended” as this winter’s wave of COVID-19 infections, driven by the highly contagious omicron variant, continues to recede. (Savidge and Batey, 2/9)

City News Service:
LA County’s COVID Hospitalizations Near Threshold For Lifting Outdoor Mask Mandate

Hospital figures have been steadily dropping, and if the trend continues, the number could fall below 2,500 in the next day or two. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer has said if the number stays below 2,500 for two consecutive weeks, the county will lift its mask mandate for outdoor “mega-events” and outdoors at schools and childcare centers. The indoor masking mandate, however, will remain in place until much stricter criteria are met, despite the state of California lifting its indoor mask requirement for vaccinated people next week. According to Ferrer, the county’s mask rule will not be lifted until the county’s virus-transmission rate falls to the “moderate” level as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for two straight weeks, or until COVID vaccines have been available to children under 5 years old for eight weeks. (2/9)

The (Santa Rosa) Press Democrat:
County Records First COVID Death Among Minors

With the two-year anniversary of the pandemic approaching, Sonoma County reported a grim first this week: A girl between the ages of 12 and 17 became the first child to die of COVID-19, which has claimed the lives of 455 residents to date. The county announced Monday that a girl in that age range died Jan. 25, but released little additional information. A Sheriff’s Office representative said the girl’s death was not referred to the county coroner, meaning she may have died out of county, or under the care of a doctor who signed her death certificate after a prolonged hospital stay. (Barber and Espinoza, 2/9)

Los Angeles Times:
Here’s How California’s New COVID-19 Sick Pay Benefits Work

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation Wednesday to reinstate supplemental sick leave benefits for most California workers, providing up to two weeks of paid time off for COVID-19 related illnesses and absences. Standing on the patio of a restaurant in Oakland, Newsom applauded business advocates, labor unions and lawmakers who came together to negotiate the legislation. The new policy includes many provisions of a law that expired in September with some new rules negotiated by the business community. (Luna, 2/9)

Modesto Bee:
One COVID-19 Declaration Is Lifted In Stanislaus County 

Stanislaus County leaders voted to lift a local emergency declaration that allowed top executives to make quick decisions in response to the COVID-19 epidemic. The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday ended the local declaration that has enabled administrative decisions, but it is keeping a local public health emergency in place as county and state governments await the next phase of the coronavirus scourge. (Carlson, 2/9)

Marin Independent Journal:
Marin County Orders COVID Vaccination And Booster For First Responders

Marin first responders will have to be fully vaccinated and boosted for COVID-19 to continue working with the public beginning April 15. The order, issued by the Marin County public health office, applies to law enforcement officers, firefighters, medics and probation officers. First responders will no longer be allowed to avoid vaccinations by getting tested regularly. The only exception will be for those who qualify for a medical or religious exemption. The mandate, announced Wednesday, comes as public health officials say they are managing “multiple preventable outbreaks in vulnerable, higher-risk settings.” (Halstead, 2/10)

Bay Area News Group:
San Jose’s COVID Booster Policy Puts Parents In A Tough Spot

San Jose’s updated policy requiring COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots to attend large indoor events at city-owned venues went into effect last Friday. And for most people, it’s kind of ho-hum. We’ve become used to showing our vaccination cards or QR codes at venues. But parents of children under the age of 17 need to pay closer attention to the rules, or else you’re going to wind up with some grumpy kids on your hands. The rules apply to a lot of places where you’d expect to find kids, including SAP Center, the Tech Interactive, the Center for the Performing Arts, the Children’s Discovery Museum, the School of Arts and Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza, Sharks Ice and the Montgomery Theater. (Pizarro, 2/10)

The New York Times:
F.D.A. Advisors Weigh Shots For The Very Young, With Key Data Outstanding 

Scientific advisers to the Food and Drug Administration will decide next week whether to endorse giving two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to children 6 months to 4 years of age, before clinical trials have shown whether a full course of three doses is effective. Such an authorization would be a first for the agency, many experts say. Interim results suggested that two doses of the vaccine did not produce a strong immune response in children aged 2 through 4. Results from trials of the third dose are expected in a few weeks. (Mandavilli, 2/10)

The Washington Post:
CDC To Quickly Roll Out 10 Million Doses If Vaccine For Young Children Is Authorized

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has told coronavirus vaccine providers to be ready to receive shots for children younger than 5 by Feb. 21 — just a week after the Food and Drug Administration is expected to make its recommendation on emergency-use authorization. If the vaccine receives the green light, an initial 10 million doses are expected to be ready for shipment, with the first half of the batch available on Feb. 21 and the second on Feb. 25, according to an updated pediatric vaccination planning guide released this week. (Cheng and Timsit, 2/10)

Los Angeles Times:
LAUSD May Expand Online Schools For Unvaccinated Students 

Anticipating that thousands of Los Angeles Unified students still may not be vaccinated this fall, the Board of Education has taken the first steps toward a major expansion of remote learning, including creating as many as six new online schools that could enroll up to 15,000 students. To date, nearly 90% of LAUSD students 12 and older have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or have obtained a rare medical exemption. But even that high compliance rate translates to about 20,000 unvaccinated students in the nation’s second-largest school district. Unvaccinated students will be barred from campuses for fall 2022 under LAUSD policies. (Gomez, 2/9)

Voice of OC:
A North OC School District Jumps Into The Battle Over Student Vaccine Mandate

Placentia-Yorba Unified School District trustees this week joined a list of local school officials pushing back against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s expected vaccine mandate for students. District trustee officials voted 4-1 at their Tuesday night meeting to adopt a resolution calling on Newsom and the state’s department of public health to reconsider their expected vaccine mandate for students to go to school in person. (Elattar, 2/9)

The Bakersfield Californian:
New Research On Valley Fever Aimed At Transforming Understanding Of Disease

Last week, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases awarded $4.5 million to researchers at UC San Francisco, UCLA and the University of Texas-San Antonio for studies on diagnosing, treating and preventing Valley fever. The Valley Fever Institute at Kern Medical will act as a clinical evaluation and recruitment center with all three institutions. “We hope that the public understands that research is the basis of their health, and this research is funded by the government to improve the quality of care for people with cocci in the long run,” said Dr. Royce Johnson, medical director for the Valley Fever Institute. (Morgen, 2/9)

Los Angeles Times:
California Bill Would Incentivize Behavioral Health Jobs 

As California grapples with a massive shortage of behavioral healthcare workers, state lawmakers want to offer financial incentives in hopes of bringing in and retaining more professionals to improve access to mental health services in the state. Senate Bill 964 by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) would offer $37,000 in stipends to students pursuing a master’s degree in social work who go on to work in behavioral health at a public agency, while creating a state fund to increase pay and provide bonuses for licensed professionals already working in the field. (Gutierrez, 2/10)

San Diego Union-Times:
San Diego’s Proposed Ban On Flavored Tobacco Unpopular With Neighborhood Market Owners

San Diego’s proposed ban on flavored tobacco and flavored e-cigarettes is stirring up controversy among both staunch supporters of such bans and dozens of neighborhood markets that would be hurt financially. Ban supporters say the city’s proposal doesn’t go far enough because it wouldn’t ban menthol cigarettes, synthetic nicotine or tobacco-derived e-liquids that don’t contain tobacco leaf. Councilmember Marni von Wilpert, who is spearheading the proposed legislation, has vowed to add those elements to the ban before the full council votes on it in coming weeks. (Garrick, 2/9)

Fresno Bee:
New Health Zones Initiative Arrives In Fresno To Help Advance Health Equity

A new initiative designed to reduce health disparities and advance health equity in underserved communities across the country has arrived in Fresno. The program Health Zones: Fresno, which was introduced by CVS Health on Jan. 19, supports local partners to address six key social determinants of health: housing, education, access to food, labor, transportation, and health care access. “We’re really trying to make sure that we can reduce health disparities and advance health equity,” said Eileen Boone, CVS Health senior vice president of Corporate Social Responsibility & Philanthropy and Chief Sustainability Officer. (Ortiz-Briones, 2/9)

The Hill:
One In Three Americans Exposed To Toxic Weedkiller: Study 

One in three Americans may have detectable levels of the cancer-linked herbicide 2,4-D — with young children incurring the most risk from exposure to these toxins, a new study from George Washington University has found. Among more than 14,000 participants surveyed, nearly 33 percent had detectable levels of the toxin in their blood, according to study, published on Wednesday in Environmental Health. (Udasin, 2/9)

Voice Of San Diego:
City Resuming Homeless Shelter Intakes 

The city on Monday resumed welcoming newcomers in city shelters following weeks of paused intakes at most shelters due to a spike in COVID cases. City spokeswoman Ashley Bailey said the decision to resume intakes follows a decline in new coronavirus cases over the past few weeks and consultation with the county public health officials. (Halverstadt, 2/10)

California Legislature Fails To Pass Bill That Would Preserve Stock Of Affordable Apartments 

Tenant advocates, racial equity groups, YIMBYs and even some of their usual opponents wanted to see the bill pass. The cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles — which rarely see eye to eye on housing issues — as well as every Democrat on the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee had signed on. So why did Assembly Bill 854, which would have curbed an owner’s ability to evict their tenants using the Ellis Act in rent-controlled jurisdictions, die without even a floor vote in the Democratic-supermajority Assembly? (Tobias, 2/9)

Fresno Bee:
Fresno’s Saint Agnes Explores Affiliation With Madera Hospital

Saint Agnes Medical Center in Fresno is exploring a “potential affiliation” with Madera Community Hospital, the medical center confirmed late Wednesday. Hospital staff first learned about the potential agreement through a Wednesday email sent to them on behalf of President and Chief Executive Officer Nancy Hollingsworth. Kelley Sanchez, a spokesperson for Saint Agnes, confirmed both hospitals are working to secure the affiliation. (Amaro, 2/9)

Sacramento Bee:
Kaiser Permanente Plans Expansion At Roseville Hospital 

Kaiser Permanente is planning a big expansion at its Roseville Medical Center that would increase the hospital’s capacity by dozens of beds. According to an application filed with the state Department of Health Care Access and Information, the healthcare giant plans to build a $298 million tower to house 30 intensive care unit beds and 108 surgical beds. The project will also include an expanded perioperative and emergency departments, inpatient pharmacy and support spaces. (Sullivan, 2/9)

Los Angeles Times:
Bob Saget’s Cause Of Death Was Head Trauma, Family Says 

Comedian and actor Bob Saget died of head trauma after accidentally hitting his head, the Saget family said Wednesday in a statement. Saget, 65, was found dead in his Orlando, Fla., hotel room the night of Jan. 9 while on a stand-up comedy tour. Investigators found no evidence of foul play or drug use, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said. (Martinez, 2/9)

Fox News:
Bob Saget’s Shocking Death Highlights Dangers Of Head Injury

The set of circumstances that reportedly killed popular comedian and TV actor Bob Saget last month are not uncommon, according to health officials. Approximately 166 Americans die from traumatic brain injury (TBI) related events each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Some individuals are at greater risk for suffering a TBI or having worse health outcomes after an injury, the CDC said on its website. Falls are responsible for nearly half of the TBI-related hospitalizations, according to the federal agency. (McGorry, 2/10)