CDC Using Outdated Covid Data For California, Localities Say: Federal health officials who reported that nearly half of Californians live in “high-risk” counties for covid-19 were relying on old data, and only a small number of counties now fall into that category, according to local officials. Kamlesh Kaur of the Stanislaus County Department of Public Health said the most recent case rate for the county is about 13 times lower than what the CDC reported Friday. Read more from CalMatters.

California, Other States Investigating TikTok’s Effects On Kids’ Health: A nationwide investigation will explore the risks that the wildly popular short-form video app TikTok poses to children, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced Wednesday. Among the issues are how the company has sought to increase the duration and frequency of use of its app by young people, the extent to which the company is aware of any harm it may be causing those users and whether it’s violating consumer protection laws. Read more from the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and Wall Street Journal.

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

Bay Area News Group:
San Jose Eases Booster Mandate After 750 Employees Fail To Comply

With more than 750 employees choosing to ignore San Jose’s new mandate requiring them to get a booster shot, city leaders have decided to soften the policy. Instead of facing up to a week of unpaid leave, officials announced Wednesday that the city’s hundreds of holdouts will only be subject to a 1-day suspension equivalent to the number of hours an employee typically works in a day. City leaders also no longer intend to impose more aggressive discipline against employees, such as longer unpaid suspensions or termination, for failing to take steps to come into compliance with the order. However, they left it open to be revisited in the event of substantial changes to the COVID-19 pandemic or if more boosters become available and are considered necessary. (Angst, 3/2)

City News Service:
LA County Inches Closer To End Of COVID-Era Mask Mandates 

The number of COVID-19-positive people hospitalized in Los Angeles County dropped again on Wednesday, March 2, helping move the county toward this week’s anticipated lifting of its indoor mask-wearing mandate. According to state figures, there were 907 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Wednesday, down from 927 on Tuesday. Of those patients, 157 were being treated in intensive care, down from 174 the previous day. (3/2)

California Legislators Propose Slate Of COVID-19 Vaccine Laws 

Gov. Gavin Newsom is easing mask restrictions and declaring that the pandemic is moving into a less critical phase. Yet an aggressive slate of COVID-19-related bills — to mandate vaccines for children and workers, to allow 12 to 17 year-olds to get the vaccine without parental consent and more — remain in play under the Capitol dome. The vaccine working group of Democratic legislators behind the proposals say their aim is to increase vaccination rates across all age groups, improve the state vaccine registration database and crack down on misinformation about the virus and the vaccine.  (Aquilera, 3/2)

From New Vaccine Mandates To Terminating A State Of Emergency: 7 California COVID-19 Bills To Watch 

After two years in a pandemic that has killed nearly 85,000 Californians and infected more than 8 million in the state, California policymakers are deciding how to proceed under COVID-19. For Gov. Gavin Newsom and his administration, the next phase includes monitoring the virus across the state through wastewater surveillance and deploying targeted tests and other resources for communities that begin to experience rising case numbers.  (Nixon, 3/2)

San Francisco Chronicle:
Google Will Require Bay Area Office Workers To Return In April After Repeated Delays

Google is requiring workers in the Bay Area and other U.S. regions to return to the office part-time on April 4.The mandatory return date, originally slated for last fall, was repeatedly delayed by coronavirus variants and surges in cases. With cases dropping and masks mandates ending in California, around 30% of Bay Area workers have already returned and the company recently restored signature perks like shuttle buses and free food. (Li, 3/2)

Sacramento Bee:
Sacramento-Area Catholic Schools Are Lifting Mask Mandates Ahead Of The State

Catholic students in two Northern California dioceses removed their masks this week after leaders said they wouldn’t wait for state approval to lift the mandate in their classrooms. On Monday, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced that the state would move to strongly recommending masking in schools after 11:59 p.m. on March 11. In the meantime, students and staff are still required under state law to wear masks at school. Masking rules apply to both public and private K-12 schools, according to the California Department of Public Health. (Korte, 3/2)

Bay Area News Group:
California, National Leaders Want More School Counselors

As California kids struggle with the emotional toll of the pandemic, natural disasters and community-wide trauma, and schools grapple with an inadequate supply of mental health care services and clinicians to support students, state leaders are sprinting to pass a bill that could allow public schools to hire as many as 10,000 new mental health counselors. (Jimenez, 3/3)

San Diego Union-Tribune:
San Diego COVID-19 Case Rates Inch Upward 

Daily new cases crept back toward 1,000 in San Diego Tuesday, according to the county health department’s latest weekly COVID-19 report. It was the second upward move after daily numbers fell below 200 Sunday, though an official later said that the lowest low seen since late November was “artificially low due to technical reporting issues.” (Sisson, 3/2)

Capital & Main:
After Two Years Fighting COVID, Nurses Wonder: What Has Really Changed?

Several months into what has become a two-year siege, Brenda Chavez identified a tipping point. Her fellow nurses at Centinela Hospital in Inglewood were beginning to run ragged. A colleague took a stress leave. Several others left the hospital and didn’t return. “I’d never seen anything like it,” Chavez, an RN in the hospital’s emergency department, told Capital & Main last year. “It was tough. We were seeing friends and co-workers who just finally had to leave when it got to be too much. They didn’t feel safe. They didn’t feel supported.” (Kreidler, 3/2)

Schizophrenia Puts People At High Risk Of Dying From COVID. That Finding May Also Change Our Fundamental Understanding Of The Brain Disease

Most of the time, the voices in Keris Myrick’s head don’t bother her. They stay in the background or say nice things. But sometimes they get loud and mean — like when a deadly pandemic descended on the world and shut down society as we know it. “It’s when things go really, really fast and they seem overwhelmingly disastrous. That’s when it happens,” says Myrick, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia 25 years ago. “I literally had a meltdown right here in my house. Just lost it.” (Dembosky, 3/3)

The New York Times:
How The Coronavirus Steals The Sense Of Smell 

Few of Covid-19’s peculiarities have piqued as much interest as anosmia, the abrupt loss of smell that has become a well-known hallmark of the disease. Covid patients lose this sense even without a stuffy nose; the loss can make food taste like cardboard and coffee smell noxious, occasionally persisting after other symptoms have resolved. Scientists are now beginning to unravel the biological mechanisms, which have been something of a mystery: The neurons that detect odors lack the receptors that the coronavirus uses to enter cells, prompting a long debate about whether they can be infected at all. (Rabin, 3/2)

The Wall Street Journal:
Biden Unveils New Covid-19 Strategy For Next Phase Of Response

Moving the United States beyond the Covid-19 pandemic will require vigilance for new variants, measures to prevent businesses and schools from shutting down, and continued global vaccine donations, according to a blueprint released Wednesday by the Biden administration. The plan underscores the administration’s shifting focus from responding to the pandemic crisis to a new normal that focuses on managing the disease. But the road map, the result of weeks of work with advisers, state leaders and public health experts, relies heavily on Congress approving billions of dollars in new Covid-19 relief funding. (Armour and Abbott, 3/2)

CBS News:
White House Lays Out New COVID Plan, Will Begin Stockpiling Tests And Pills 

For example, expanding the nation’s Strategic National Stockpile to now include at-home tests, antiviral pills, and masks for children as the White House envisions, would mark a significant – and expensive – shift for a federal cache once focused on buying up emergency reserves for hospitals and first responders. Supplies in the stockpile had surged thanks in part to previous rounds of pandemic relief money, enabling the federal plan to distribute some 400 million free N95 respirators in the wake of the Omicron wave earlier this year. But officials say ramping up the stockpile to address another wave of the virus in the general population would require significant purchases and planning far beyond its current levels. (Tin, 3/2)

San Francisco Chronicle:
Biden’s Push To ‘Test To Treat’ COVID On The Spot Already Under Way In Bay Area

A central part of President Biden’s new COVID strategy — the so-called “test to treat” initiative to enable pharmacies, long-term care facilities and community health centers to test patients and give out antiviral pills on the spot if they test positive — is already underway at many Bay Area health care providers. Doctors and pharmacists have essentially been operating this way for the last few months, since pills first became available, local clinics and long-term care facilities say. However, their ability to do so has been limited by scarce supply of pills, particularly the Pfizer drug Paxlovid, and the very short window of time between symptom onset and when patients must start taking the drug. (Ho, 3/2)

Biden Plan Would Tackle Chronic Gaps In Mental Health Care 

President Joe Biden’s new plan to expand mental health and drug abuse treatment would pour hundreds of millions of dollars into suicide prevention, mental health services for youth, and community clinics providing 24/7 access to people in crisis. Unveiled as part of his State of the Union speech, Biden’s plan seeks to shrink America’s chronic gap in care between diseases of the body and those of the mind. Health insurance plans would have to cover three mental health visits a year at no added cost to patients. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 3/3)

House To Vote On Bill To Help Veterans Exposed To Burn Pits 

The House is poised to pass legislation that would dramatically boost health care services and disability benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill set for a vote Thursday has the backing of the nation’s major veterans groups and underscores the continued cost of war years after the fighting has stopped. If passed into law, it would increase spending by more than $300 billion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office. (Freking, 3/3)

San Diego Union-Tribune:
Thousands In San Diego Could See Health Care Premium Increases In 2023 

More than 100,000 San Diego County residents on Covered California health insurance plans should get ready for sticker shock in 2023. That was the message delivered Wednesday by Peter Lee, outgoing executive director of the health care exchange that has enrolled nearly 1.8 million Californians for coverage in 2022, the second year of a two-year $22 billion increase in subsidy payments that were part of the 2021 American Recovery Act. (Sisson, 3/2)

East Bay Times:
Two Boys Seen Playing With Rabid Bat Sought By Southern California Health Officials

Riverside County public health officials are alerting parents about two unidentified boys who may have been exposed to rabies while handling a bat in a Corona industrial park. The boys, who appeared to be 11 or 12 years old and were riding bicycles, were seen with the bat in a parking lot at 301 Lincoln Ave. about 4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 28, Riverside University Health System – Public Health announced in a Wednesday, March 2, news release. The bat tested positive for rabies, the release states. (Horseman, 3/3)

Los Angeles Daily News:
El Segundo Considers Legal Action Against Hyperion Over Pollutants 

El Segundo could possibly take legal action against the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant – Los Angeles’ largest and oldest wastewater treatment plant – and the Southland’s air quality watchdog, with the city attorney set to explore potential options. The City Council’s decision this week to look into legal action seems poised to open another chapter in a months-long saga that began when Hyperion experienced near catastrophic flooding in July, forcing plant officials to release 17 million gallons of untreated sewage into the ocean. (Jacobs, 3/2)

Michael Tilson Thomas Goes Public About Cancer, Steps Back From Some Engagements 

Michael Tilson Thomas, the former longtime music director of the San Francisco Symphony, announced Wednesday that he has an aggressive form of brain cancer and is taking a step back from professional life. The conductor and composer shared the news publicly for the first time in a signed letter sent to the media by his New York publicist, Constance Shuman. (Veltman, 3/2)

Sacramento Bee:
Sacramento May Be Out Of Money For More Homeless Shelters

Sacramento City Council Howard Chan raised an alarm this week about funding for the city’s existing homeless shelters even as the City Council pushes to open more large sites to address the community’s growing homelessness crisis. Chan this week told the council the city can’t count on having the $33 million it needs to provide the roughly 1,000 spaces it currently offers past July 1. (Clift, 3/3)

San Francisco Chronicle:
Despite Open Air Drug Dealing Nearby, New Housing In San Francisco’s Mid-Market Is Filling Up

You can see it walking down Central Market Street at dusk: One by one the windows of the new residential buildings are starting to light up. Despite empty office buildings and rows of shuttered retail — and open air drug dealing that has become so bad that in December the city declared a state of emergency — residents are moving into the long-troubled heart of San Francisco’s main street. (Dineen, 3/2)

San Francisco Chronicle:
There’s A New Coalition In S.F. Trying To Reduce Homelessness. Can It Work?

A coalition of more than 30 nonprofit organizations and businesses will launch an effort Wednesday to create housing and shelter projects in San Francisco stocked with drug rehab and other services to help homeless people get off the streets. The alliance joins a growing number of efforts launched in recent years to reduce homelessness, and comes as the city faces dueling housing and addiction crises and growing frustration over what to do about them. (Fagan, 3/2)