‘I Just Want to Stay in One Spot’: From Homeless to Housed in Rugged Del Norte

California’s homeless crisis is often understood through cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, where the sheer number of people living unsheltered can quickly capsize the programs designed to help them. But in remote counties like Del Norte, California’s Project Homekey is having a tangible impact. (Anna Maria Barry-Jester,

California To Announce Changes To Its Pandemic Approach: California officials will unveil Thursday a plan for coexisting with the coronavirus, which scientists say is likely to be around for the foreseeable future. The plan presumes the most populous state is entering an endemic stage, where the virus still exists in a community but becomes manageable as immunity builds. Read more from AP, CBS Sacramento and CalMatters.

Lawmakers Want More Social Media Protections For Kids: Two California lawmakers are proposing a web overhaul to protect California kids when they’re online, the most sweeping privacy measure since voters approved the California Privacy Rights Act in 2020. The bipartisan proposal is from Assemblymembers Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) and Jordan Cunningham (R-Templeton). Read more from Politico. In related news, two U.S. senators introduced a bill in Washington on Wednesday that would protect children from the potentially harmful impacts of social media. Read more from The Washington Post.

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

City News Service:
LA County’s COVID Deaths Surpass Grim 30,000 Milestone 

On the day it lifted its outdoor mask-wearing mandate thanks to dwindling COVID-19 hospitalization numbers, Los Angeles County reported another 102 virus-related deaths on Wednesday, Feb. 16, pushing it over the grim milestone of 30,000 fatalities during the pandemic. The sobering milestone served as a reminder that the virus was continuing to claim lives, even as restrictions begin to ease locally and statewide in response to falling transmission rates and daily case numbers that signaled an end to the winter surge of infections. (2/16)

San Francisco Chronicle:
COVID Survivors At Higher Risk Of Severe Mental Health Issues

People who are infected with the coronavirus are more likely to suffer from a range of mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression, according to a large-scale study published Wednesday in the medical journal the BMJ. Comparing data from 153,848 people who tested positive to clinical data from nearly 12 million people with no history of infection, researchers from St. Louis found that the COVID-19 survivors were 40% more likely to be depressed or struggle with sleep issues, and 20% more likely to use illicit drugs within a year of infection. (Vaziri, Fracassa and Beamish, 2/16)

Modesto Bee:
Stanislaus Leader Cites Accomplishments During COVID Crisis 

Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors Chairman Terry Withrow said he didn’t expect everyone would agree with the county’s response and strategies for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in the last two years. But the county is ready to move beyond the public health crisis, regardless of what COVID might still throw at the community. “Life is to be lived, not just survived,” Withrow said in his State of the County speech delivered Tuesday evening in the meeting chambers at Tenth Street Place. (Carlson, 2/16)

Estimated 73% Of US Now Immune To Omicron: Is That Enough?

The omicron wave that assaulted the United States this winter also bolstered its defenses, leaving enough protection against the coronavirus that future spikes will likely require much less — if any — dramatic disruption to society. Millions of individual Americans’ immune systems now recognize the virus and are primed to fight it off if they encounter omicron, or even another variant. (Johnson, 2/17)

Bay Area News Group:
San Jose: Booster Mandate Deadline Extended After Employees Fail To Comply

San Jose has extended the deadline for its COVID-19 booster mandate after hundreds of employees failed to comply in time for the initial cutoff. The deadline for the new booster mandate — previously set to expire on Feb. 11 — has been pushed out two weeks to Feb. 25 to “allow for additional time for employees to be ‘up-to-date’ with their COVID-19 vaccination,” according to an email sent out to the city’s workforce Tuesday afternoon. (Angst, 2/16)

San Diego Union-Tribune:
ReOpen San Diego Sues City Of San Diego Over COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate 

The organization ReOpen San Diego sued the city of San Diego this week over the city’s mandate that all city employees, elected officials, board and commission members and volunteers be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in federal court, challenges as unconstitutional and discriminatory the vaccination mandate City Council passed Nov. 29 with an 8-1 vote. (Cook, 2/16)

Sacramento Bee:
Sacramento County Official Tried To Plan ‘Freedom Convoy’ 

A Sacramento County supervisor attempted to help organize a mass-protest against vaccine mandates inspired by a demonstration that brought scores of truckers to Canada’s capital city and caused mass disruption for weeks. Calling herself a “freedom fighter” Supervisor Sue Frost recently joined a Telegram social media channel to help plan a protest, according to screenshots posted online. People participating in the channel called for a California “Peoples Convoy,” one of several rumored U.S. trucker protests that have thus far failed to materialize. (Pohl, 2/16)

The Hill:
‘Yellowstone’ Actor Won’t Attend Awards Ceremony Over COVID-19 Rules 

“Yellowstone” actor Forrie J. Smith will not attend the Screen Actors Guild Awards ceremony later this month at Santa Monica’s Barker Hangar because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19 and the event requires that all attendees are fully inoculated. Smith, in a video posted to Instagram this week, announced that he would not be in attendance at the awards ceremony, which is scheduled for Feb. 27. (Schnell, 2/16)

San Francisco Chronicle:
CDC To Update Mask Guidance As Early As Next Week

As many states move to ease indoor mask mandates for vaccinated people, officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday they planned to update the agency’s federal recommendations as well. “We are looking at all of our guidance based not only on where we are right now in the pandemic but also on the tools we now have at our disposal — such as vaccines, boosters, tests and treatments — and our latest understanding of the disease,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said at a White House briefing. (Vaziri, Fracassa and Beamish, 2/17)

Los Angeles Times:
California Still ‘Strongly Recommends’ Masks As Order Eases 

Even as California begins to loosen its mask requirements, some top health officials are strongly recommending the public still wear face coverings, saying the state’s earlier pandemic experiences illustrate the need for continued vigilance. With the Omicron wave still fresh in the minds of residents and policymakers alike, officials are casting Wednesday’s lifting of a statewide indoor mask mandate in a cautiously optimistic light — a departure from the more celebratory tone seen eight months ago, when California lifted virtually all coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses and public spaces. (Lin II and Money, 2/16)

Sacramento Bee:
Sacramento County Drops Mask, Virtual Meeting Orders 

Sacramento County has formally lifted its local health order requiring those fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to wear masks in most indoor public settings, as well as a separate order that suspended boards and councils from conducting in-person meetings. The changes are effective immediately, county officials said in a Wednesday morning news release, putting Sacramento County in alignment with the state’s health orders. (McGough, 2/16)

VC Star:
Ventura County Courthouses Keep Mask Mandate In Place

Ventura County courthouses will require masks to be worn inside — regardless of vaccination status — until further notice, court officials said Tuesday. The announcement was made as the state and the County of Ventura lifted their indoor mask mandate for vaccinated residents starting Wednesday. (Childs, 2/16)

The (Santa Rosa) Press Democrat:
Sonoma County Officials Still Recommend Face Coverings Despite End Of Mandate

Sonoma County health officials on Wednesday made it clear the state’s move to loosen COVID-19 mask rules this week is by no means a call for local residents to ditch their masks altogether. The state’s two-month universal mask rule ended Wednesday, allowing vaccinated and boosted residents to shed their masks in indoor public settings. Unvaccinated people are still required to wear masks indoors and county officials masking in public spaces, particularly for residents at risk of serious illness, is still strongly advised. (Espinoza, 2/16)

San Francisco Chronicle:
We Counted Masks At Grocery Stores On The Day California’s Mandate Lifted — Here’s What We Found

Curious how people responded to their first day of mask freedom since mid-December, The Chronicle sent reporters to three groceries around the bay to find out. Between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Wednesday, the reporters also counted how many people wore masks, or didn’t, as they exited the stores. The verdict: it appeared that some people hadn’t heard the news, while many others still chose to wear face coverings. Fewer than 10% of the shoppers we tallied were mask-free. Here’s a sampling of what we found. (Cabanatuan, Stoughtenborough, Vainshtein and Asimov, 2/16)

San Diego Union-Tribune:
Vulnerable San Diegans Feel Left Behind By Current COVID-19 Response 

Life in solitude has become the norm for Mount Helix resident Jillian Parramore as she sought to avoid contracting the coronavirus. For nearly two years, the Disability Rights California board member has stayed at home, aside from the occasional car ride with her wife to run errands. Parramore is diagnosed with epilepsy, asthma and cerebral palsy, and the latter two put her at higher risk for respiratory complications from COVID-19. (Mapp, 2/15)

Tehachapi News:
Anti-Mask Protest Continues At Tehachapi High School 

A protest against a state mandate that students wear masks was in its second day at Tehachapi High School Wednesday, with about 10 parents waving flags and carrying signs in support of students as the school day began. And at about 9:45 a.m. a group of 40 or more students rallied behind a gate as a few parents remained with signs, encouraging them to stand their ground against wearing face masks at school. (Elliott, 2/16)

Fresno Bee:
Fresno Unified Adds Metal Detectors To School Board Meeting 

Metal detectors and a beefed-up police presence during Wednesday’s Fresno Unified School Board meeting didn’t appear to discourage residents from speaking out. Not a seat was empty. Despite the public comment being moved from the front of the meeting to the end, nearly two dozen people addressed the school board. Each speaker was allowed two minutes instead of three. Additionally, the portion of the meeting dedicated to communications to and from trustees and the superintendent in open session was eliminated. (Weaver, 2/17)

Pfizer And BioNTech Omicron-Targeted Vaccine Delayed – BioNTech CEO 

Delivery of Pfizer and BioNTech SE’s vaccine to combat the Omicron COVID-19 variant was delayed by several weeks due to a slower-than expected data gathering process, BionTech Chief Executive Ugur Sahin told Germany’s Bild on Thursday. Once the vaccine is ready, the company would assess whether it was still needed, Sahin said. (2/16)

Moderna Eyes COVID Booster By August, Not Clear Yet If Omicron-Specific Needed

An Omicron-specific booster could be ready by August, the CEO of U.S. biotech firm Moderna (MRNA.O) told Reuters, but the firm is still gathering clinical data to determine whether that vaccine would offer better protection than a new dose of the existing jab. Last month Moderna began clinical trials for a booster dose specifically designed to target Omicron but initial results from studies in monkeys show the Omicron-specific shot may not offer stronger protection than a new dose of the existing vaccine. (Guarascio, 2/17)

Sacramento Bee:
Pennsylvania’s Insurance Chief To Become Covered CA Leader

Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman will succeed Peter V. Lee as the leader of Covered California, the agency charged with ensuring state residents get quality insurance coverage at an affordable price. Lee, the California insurance exchange’s founding executive director, leaves after more than a decade of service. “We have made tremendous progress in California and across the nation as a result of Peter’s vision, passion and leadership — and because of the great team he has brought together and our state’s commitment to work together on behalf of all Californians,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of California’s Department of Health and Human Services. “That work has improved the lives of millions of Californians and meant that Covered California has served as a national proving ground. (Anderson, 2/15)

Sacramento Bee:
Sacramento Hospital Planned At Ex-Kings Arena Moves Forward 

The Sacramento City Council Tuesday cleared the way for a $1 billion hospital and medical school in North Natomas to start construction, but a hefty request for city funding could be on the way. California Northstate University plans to build a hospital and so-called innovation campus at the former Sleep Train Arena. (Clift, 2/16)

NBC News:
Cuts To California Cannabis Taxes Would Harm Low-Income Youths, Advocates Say

Amid concerns that California’s cannabis industry is overtaxed and on the brink of collapse, children’s and youth advocates say cutting marijuana taxes could put badly needed social service programs in jeopardy. Small cannabis farmers and business owners have repeatedly asked the state to overhaul the industry’s tax system as they struggle to stay afloat with rising operating and regulatory costs. (Lozano, 2/16)

San Diego Union-Tribune:
San Diego’s Equip Nets $58M For Eating Disorder Telehealth Platform, With Backing From Katie Couric Media 

San Diego startup Equip, which provides telehealth treatment for people with eating disorders, has raised $58 million in a second round of investment that includes backing from Katie Couric Media and soccer star Alex Morgan. Founded in 2019, Equip plans to use the money to scale its telehealth technology, expand to all 50 states, broaden insurance coverage and launch new services. (Freeman, 2/16)

Los Angeles Times:
Bob Saget’s Family Sues To Block Release Of Death Records 

The family of comedian Bob Saget has filed a lawsuit in Florida to prevent investigators from releasing photographs and other materials related to the death of the beloved “Full House” star. Saget’s wife, food and travel blogger Kelly Rizzo, and his three adult daughters filed the complaint Tuesday against John Mina, the sheriff of Orange County in Florida, and the District Nine Medical Examiner’s Office, both of which investigated the actor’s sudden death. (Carras, 2/16)

NBC News:
Percentage Of LGBTQ Adults In U.S. Has Doubled Over Past Decade, Gallup Finds

Gallup found that the increase is due to ​​”high LGBT self-identification, particularly as bisexual, among Generation Z adults,” who are 18 to 25. It asked more than 12,000 U.S. adults how they identify during telephone interviews last year. It found that younger U.S. adults are much more likely to identify as LGBTQ than older generations. More than 1 in 5, or 21 percent, of Generation Z adults identify as LGBTQ, Gallup found. That’s almost double the proportion of millennials, who are 26 to 41, at 10.5 percent, and nearly five times the proportion of Generation X, who are 42 to 57, at 4.2 percent. (Yurcaba, 2/17)

Sacramento Bee:
East Sacramento River Park Won’t Be Homeless Safe Ground Site 

A prospective homeless safe parking site at Sutter’s Landing Park is dead in the water after pushback from East Sacramento residents, Sacramento city councilwoman Katie Valenzuela announced via Twitter on Wednesday. The 28th Street parking lot along the American River would have been opened to overnight parking for people living out of their vehicles, similar to a site on South Front Street. Vehicles can’t be towed from safe parking grounds, unlike non-designated parking areas around Sacramento, and the city offers showers, food and long-term resources to people who park there. (Egel, 2/16)

California Crime, Homelessness Could Hurt Democrats

Crime and homelessness. Those are the two issues on which California Democrats are most vulnerable heading into the 2022 elections, according to a Tuesday poll from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies and the Los Angeles Times. Underscoring the political risk: a drumbeat of recent headlines on brutal crimes and attacks allegedly committed by homeless individuals. (Hoeven, 2/16)