S.F. Police Accused Of Using Rape Kits To Identify Suspects In Crimes: The San Francisco police crime lab has been entering sexual assault victims’ DNA profiles in a database used to identify suspects in crimes, District Attorney Chesa Boudin said Monday. Boudin said his office was made aware of the purported practice last week, after a woman’s DNA collected years ago as part of a rape exam was used to link her to a recent property crime. Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times and the Bay City News.

Just When You Thought Covid Cases Were Plummeting: After falling sharply over the past few weeks, the rate of new daily coronavirus cases in the Bay Area appears to be leveling off just as California and local health officials prepare to pull back several covid safety measures, including indoor mask mandates. The Bay Area is averaging 86 new cases a day per 100,000 residents, compared to 60 cases a day last Monday. Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

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

Sacramento Bee:
California COVID Numbers Improving As Mask Order Nears End 

With mask restrictions set to loosen this week and Gov. Gavin Newsom poised to unveil details of an “endemic plan,” California’s COVID-19 metrics are continuing rapid improvement from the height of the omicron wave last month. The California Department of Public Health on Monday reported the latest daily case rate at 57 per 100,000, down 46% from 106 per 100,000 a week earlier. But is nearly quadruple the pre-omicron level of about 15 per 100,000 in early December, but less than one-fifth of the peak of the omicron surge, which maxed out at 299 per 100,000 in early January. (McGough, 2/14)

Sacramento Bee:
California’s COVID-19 Case Rate Now 5 Times Lower Than Peak Of Omicron Surge

With mask restrictions set to loosen this week and Gov. Gavin Newsom poised to unveil details of an “endemic plan,” California’s COVID-19 metrics are continuing rapid improvement from the height of the omicron wave last month. The California Department of Public Health on Monday reported the latest daily case rate at 57 per 100,000, down 46% from 106 per 100,000 a week earlier. (McGough, 2/14)

San Diego Union-Tribune:
Masks Won’t Be Required In Many Places Starting Wednesday 

Two months after it was put in place to handle the Omicron surge, California’s mask mandate falls at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, though face coverings will still be required in many settings, including schools, hospitals and public transit. San Diego County’s coronavirus numbers continue to make the case that the pandemic is receding. The daily number of new case notifications received by the county health department dipped below 1,000 Saturday for the first time since Dec. 20, coming in at 933 followed by 787 Sunday. (Sisson, 2/14)

Los Angeles Times:
California School Mask Mandate Will Stay Through Feb. 28 

California will keep its indoor mask mandate for K-12 schools in place at least through the end of the month, the state’s top health official said Monday, even as it moves this week to relax face covering rules in other settings. While other states have announced plans to relax their requirements in the near future, California will reassess conditions Feb. 28 to see whether the promising trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic continues, said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s health and human services secretary. (Money, 2/14)

Modesto Bee:
California Won’t Lift School Mask Mandate – For Now 

Millions of Californians will remove their masks this week when the state’s universal mandate ends on Tuesday. Teachers and students, however, will not be among them. California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said the state will wait another two weeks to decide whether to change its rules on masking in schools. The extra time will allow communities to discuss the change and prepare with added protections, if they wish, he said. (Korte, 2/14)

As Omicron Surge Wanes, California School Mask Mandate Still In Place For At Least Two Weeks 

As California relaxes its indoor masking requirements for vaccinated people following a record-breaking winter surge, the state’s top health official announced Monday that face coverings will still be required in schools for at least two more weeks. California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly made the announcement less than one day before the state’s universal mask mandate lapses, and one day after tens of thousands of people gathered for the Super Bowl in Los Angeles. (Nixon and Hooks, 2/14)

San Francisco Chronicle:
Here’s When California Will Decide On School Mask Mandate

Students and staff in California’s K-12 schools must continue wearing face masks for at least the next two weeks, after which the state will reassess the need for a mandate and possibly offer a date for when it may be lifted, health officials said Monday. The announcement came the day before the state’s universal indoor mask mandate expires. Though vaccinated Californians will no longer be required to wear masks in almost all public indoor settings starting Wednesday, the order to wear face coverings will remain in place in all schools as a continuing strategy to curb spread of COVID-19. (Allday and Tucker, 2/14)

Bay Area News Group:
COVID: When Will California Lift School Mask Mandate?

California school kids will have to wait until the end of the month to find out when they can attend classes without their face masks on, even as the state requirement to wear them in stores, businesses and many other public places lifts for the unvaccinated on Wednesday. Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said Monday that California isn’t quite ready to make a decision on lifting its statewide school mask mandate in place since last summer, but will reassess Feb. 28 after looking again at cases, hospitalizations and vaccinations. Masking is aimed at keeping COVID-19 rates in check. (Woolfolk, 2/14)

California Delays Decision On Lifting School Mask Mandate

Gov. Gavin Newsom delayed a closely watched decision on lifting California’s school mask mandate Monday, even as other Democratic governors around the country have dropped them in recent weeks. While many Californians will be able to remove masks in most indoor settings starting Tuesday, schoolchildren and teachers will have to wait. Newsom had flagged Monday as the day to watch for a revision regarding schools, then sent the state’s top health official to deliver the message of a delay. (Gecker, 2/15)

The (Santa Rosa) Press Democrat:
Sonoma County Health Officials Support State’s Delay In Easing Masking For Students

Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase said Monday she agreed with the state’s decision to delay lifting the indoor mask requirement for students for two weeks. The state said Monday it will wait until Feb. 28 to further assess pandemic trends and could at that time offer a timeline for loosening school masking rules. “The state is doing the right thing,” Mase said Monday evening. “I think we will be aligning with the state completely on school masking.” (Espinoza, 2/14)

Voice of OC:
Orange County’s Children Might Soon Be Able To Drop Masks In Classrooms

Orange County’s children might be able to drop their masks at schools soon after state public health officials hinted at giving a date from switching their classroom mask mandate to a recommendation. “We’re getting to a place where we can relax the statewide masking requirements. We’ll today not make a change … but on February 28, we will reassess the data,” said Secretary of the state Health and Human Services department, Dr. Mark Ghaly, at a Monday news conference. (Custodio, 2/14)

Los Angeles Daily News:
Super Bowl’s Mask-Free Celebrities Spark Renewed Call For Rethinking LA County Mandates 

Social media blew up Sunday afternoon with images from Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium. Getting almost as much attention as the cliffhanger of a game and the hip-hop legends who performed at halftime were scores of celebrities posing for the camera, many of them unmasked. One by one the visuals kept coming, capturing such high-profile figures as Magic Johnson, Jay-Z, LeBron James and Jennifer Lopez enjoying the Los Angeles Rams’ victory over the Cincinnati Bengals mask-free, even though all were given a free, high-quality KN95 face covering upon entry. (Carter, 2/14)

Modesto Bee:
Do Masks Protect From COVID If Others Aren’t Wearing One? 

Some states are dropping COVID-19 face mask mandates or are debating doing so as COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are on the decline. Still, the coronavirus continues to spread even as the weekly average of daily positive COVID-19 cases dropped by 42.8% as of Feb. 9 compared with the week before, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you’re wondering whether a mask can protect you from COVID-19 in public if others around aren’t wearing one, here’s what experts say about the concept of one-way masking. (Marnin, 2/14)

Napa Valley Register:
Napa School District Suspends COVID-19 Worker Vaccination Deadline Set For March 31 

Napa County’s largest public school system has hit pause on an impending requirement that its employees receive full vaccination against the coronavirus by the end of March. Freezing a mandate it had passed last month, the Napa Valley Unified School District board on Thursday voted unanimously to suspend a vaccination requirement that would have applied to some 1,674 staff members starting March 31 at more than two dozen campuses across Napa and American Canyon. The suspension will continue “until further information is available and discussion can take place,” and no later than June 23, according to the motion. (Yune, 2/14)

California Launches Ambitious Effort To Transform Medi-Cal 

Medi-Cal offers medical insurance to low-income Californians, serving as a lifeline for nearly half of the state’s children, one in five adults and 2 million seniors and people with disabilities. But the program is inefficient: More than half of Medi-Cal’s roughly $133 billion annual budget is spent on just 5% of the program’s highest-needs individuals — people with multiple complex health problems compounded by homelessness, poverty, substance abuse, mental illness or incarceration, according the Department of Health Care Services. Over the next five years, the goal of CalAIM is to address the upstream drivers of deteriorating health — things like food insecurity and housing instability — in an effort to reduce costly emergency department visits, hospitalizations and nursing home stays. The program redesign is based on “whole person care” principles, which help people avoid situations that worsen their physical and mental health. (Hwang, 2/14)

Fresno Bee:
Attorney General Pushes CA Jails On Reproductive Health Care 

The California Attorney General’s Office is taking action to make sure all county jails are providing reproductive health care, such as prenatal care, to inmates as required by state and federal laws. The action follows recent allegations that Tulare County jails have deprived inmates of prenatal care after the ACLU of Northern California looked into the issue. (Amaro, 2/15)

The Bakersfield Californian:
Union Says Higher Wages Will Lead To Better Conditions At Skilled Nursing Facility In Delano 

Employees of a skilled nursing facility in Delano are pushing for higher wages, saying their low pay is creating “unsafe staffing levels” in nursing homes. Certified nurses assistants from the Delano District Skilled Nursing Facility took part in a Valentine’s Day demonstration put on by Service Employees International Union Local 2015. They are pushing for a $20 per hour wage floor, which is up from the $16 per hour the union says employees are paid currently. (Morgen, 2/14)

San Diego Union-Tribune:
Parents Struggle To Get Nurses For Medically Fragile Kids 

To make sure her 3-year-old daughter survived the night on her ventilator, Amber Suarez stayed awake for four hours, then woke up her husband to watch Mia for another four hours as the girl dozed. It had already been months since the family lost a nurse who assisted them during the day, which meant Suarez had been caring for her disabled daughter since the morning, juggling the needs of Mia and her twin sister, Savannah. She feeds her through a gastrostomy tube, administers breathing treatments and suctions out fluid from the tube that helps her breathe. (Reyes, 2/15)

Bay Area News Group:
Oakland: Protesters Sleep On Sidewalk, Demand Mental Health Care

Lawrence Abbott’s little brother, Theodore, should still be alive today. Instead, he died of a treatable illness at age 57 after a long struggle with homelessness because Alameda County’s beleaguered mental health system failed him, Abbott says. Now, Abbott and other activists are sleeping outside of the Board of Supervisors’ offices in downtown Oakland to draw attention to the plight of people such as Theodore. They’re calling for more resources, especially conservatorships, in-patient facilities and other options for people who are too sick to know they need treatment. (Kendall, 2/14)

The Bakersfield Californian:
Houchin, Girl Scouts Team Up To Encourage Blood Donations 

Houchin Community Blood Bank is partnering with Girl Scouts of Central California South to provide each blood donor a certificate for a free box of Girl Scout cookies starting Monday. With the worst blood shortage being declared in more than a decade, this incentive is not only to provide a tasty treat, but also to encourage new donors to save lives, according to organizers. Donors can start by making an appointment at one of Houchin’s donor centers or a mobile clinic. (Walk-ins are welcome.) (2/14)

The Bakersfield Californian:
Bakersfield Threesome Charged With Fraud, Illegal Use Of Debit Cards In Alleged PPE Scam 

Three Bakersfield residents, two of them brothers, are facing charges in federal court for allegedly offering to sell personal protective equipment — including 1 million N95 masks — to health care companies in Ohio, accepting tens of thousands of dollars in wire payments for the PPE and failing to deliver the equipment as promised. Charles Abieanga, 30, Simon Abieanga, 27, and Viviana Cervantes, 23, were charged with one count of fraud and related activity in connection with access devices, such as bank cards and debit cards not registered in their names, in a grand jury indictment filed Jan. 27 in U.S. District Court in California’s Eastern District in Fresno. (Mayer, 2/14)

Bay Area News Group:
Bob Saget’s Autopsy Sparks Questions, Conspiracy Theories

When Bob Saget’s family issued a statement last week saying that authorities had determined the comedian died of head trauma, they probably hoped their announcement would quiet disturbing rumors and conspiracy theories that have been circulating around his sudden Jan. 9 death in a Florida hotel room. One of those theories — a baseless, far-right argument that the COVID-19 vaccine is to blame for Saget’s death — has lost its edge, but it’s been replaced by other questions that have come to light since the release of his autopsy findings, which have left experts in brain trauma perplexed and wondering “there is more to the story,” according to the New York Times and other outlets. (Ross, 2/14)

Queer Communities Often Left Out Of Disaster Planning, Research Shows

Reyes’s life is one example of how queer people often have to create space for themselves, especially during climate disasters, because the services offered to most people may not be or feel available to them. And when there’s a climate disaster, LGBTQ+ people are often more vulnerable because of intersecting factors like poverty, incarceration, homelessness, immigration status and discrimination. (Romero, 2/14)

Bay Area News Group:
Redwood City Hotel To Become Housing For Homeless Amid $16 Million In Homekey Funds

A Comfort Inn and Suites could soon be home to new permanent housing and high-quality support to dozens of formerly homeless people thanks to millions of dollars in state and city funds. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday awarded $16 million in state Homekey funds to San Mateo County to transform the hotel at 1818 El Camino Real on the south side of downtown Redwood City and bring much-needed homes for unhoused people amid a worsening affordability crisis. (Toledo, 2/15)

Voice of San Diego:
Attorneys Warn Of Legal Action Over Midway Camp Crackdown 

Two attorneys formally demanded the city cease enforcement against homeless residents at a Midway District homeless camp this weekend, before police resumed ticketing Monday. Attorneys Scott Dreher and Coleen Cusack on Saturday sent Mayor Todd Gloria and other city officials a letter informing them that they are representing homeless San Diegans staying at the Midway camp that has grown dramatically over the last year. They warned the city not to proceed with a plan to enforce crimes tied to homelessness there this week, alleging that the expected crackdown would violate residents’ constitutional rights and interfere with the region’s Feb. 24 homeless census. (Halverstadt, 2/15)

The Wall Street Journal:
Drought In U.S. West Is Driest Period In Centuries 

In the American West, the last 22 years have been the driest period since at least 800 A.D., according to a new study. The drought, which began in 2000, is also on track to surpass the duration of a megadrought in the 1500s, according to Park Williams, lead author of the study, which was published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change. While there is no one definition for megadrought, the phrase is generally used to signify a drought that has persisted for decades. (Ansari, 2/14)

The Washington Post:
Megadrought In Southwest North America Worst In 1,200 Years 

The extreme heat and dry conditions of the past few years pushed what was already an epic, decades-long drought in the American West into a historic disaster that bears the unmistakable fingerprints of climate change. The long-running drought, which has persisted since 2000, can now be considered the driest 22-year period of the past 1,200 years, according to a study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change. (Leonard, 2/14)