California To End Indoor Mask Mandate: California’s statewide mask mandate, which requires everyone to wear face coverings indoors regardless of vaccination status, will be lifted Feb. 16 as anticipated, health officials said Monday, noting that covid cases have dropped dramatically. Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle. Keep scrolling for more coverage of the mask mandate.  

State Legislature Approves Covid Sick Pay: California workers who had to miss work because they or a loved one caught covid this year will be able to get at least 40 hours of paid sick leave under a bill passed Monday. The bill applies to anyone at a company with more than 26 employees and covers time taken off between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30. Read more from the Sacramento Bee, Los Angeles Times, KQED and AP.

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

Los Angeles Times:
California To Lift Mask Mandate In Indoor Public Places 

With the Omicron coronavirus surge rapidly receding, California will lift its universal mask mandate for indoor public places next week, state officials announced Monday. The lifting of the mandate will apply to counties without local mask orders of their own, such as San Diego, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, as well as swaths of the San Joaquin Valley. Counties can still opt to retain local mask orders, as Los Angeles County will do. (Lin II, Money and Willon, 2/7)

Bay Area News Group:
California’s Easing Some COVID Rules — Too Soon, Too Slow?

As COVID-19 cases subside in California, state health officials Monday announced they are ending testing requirements for visitors to nursing homes and next week will ease similar restrictions on large events and mostly ditch the statewide indoor face mask mandate. But one group of Californians — the state’s 6 million school children — won’t get much of a break from the pandemic rules. California’s requirement that they wear masks inside classrooms and other school buildings remains in place for now, even though New Jersey said Monday it will end a similar rule in a month. (Woolfolk, 2/7)

California Will Lift Mask Mandate As Omicron Cases Fall 

California will end its indoor masking requirement for vaccinated people next week but masks still are the rule for schoolchildren, state health officials announced Monday amid rapidly falling coronavirus cases. After Feb. 15, unvaccinated people still will be required to be masked indoors, and everyone — vaccinated or not — will have to wear masks in higher-risk areas like public transit and nursing homes and other congregate living facilities, officials said. Local governments can continue their own indoor masking requirements and last week Los Angeles County’s health officials said they intend to keep theirs in place beyond the state deadline. (Thompson, 2/8)

Los Angeles Daily News:
Newsom To Ease Mask Rules – But LA County Has Its Own Timetable 

The state of California will lift its COVID-19 indoor mask-wearing requirement for vaccinated people next week, but the move won’t have any immediate impact in Los Angeles County, which has its own mandate for indoor face coverings in place. State officials announced Monday the indoor mask wearing requirement for vaccinated people will expire at the end of the day Feb. 15. Gov. Gavin Newsom said the move is the result of a 65% drop in the infection rate since the peak of the winter surge caused by the Omicron variant of COVID-19, as well as a stabilization in hospitalization numbers. (2/7)

Los Angeles Times:
As California Mask Mandates Lifts, Should Schools Be Next? 

Educators and families are bracing for another round of pandemic policy shifts as California officials weigh when to lift mask mandates for schools — with some eagerly calling for students and staff to unmask and others urging caution. A general easing of rules is set for Feb. 15 — when California is poised to lift mask mandates for vaccinated residents in indoor public places. The rules would not immediately affect Los Angeles County until officials modify their health order. Local health orders on COVID-19 safety measures are allowed to be more strict than state guidelines. (Blume, 2/8)

California To Ease Covid Rules In Path To ‘Endemic’ Strategy

Gov. Gavin Newsom is poised to ease statewide restrictions on mass gatherings and indoor masking as the Omicron coronavirus variant continues to recede. The plan, confirmed by an administration official, would be the first step in Newsom’s exit strategy for the Covid-19 pandemic — a major shift for a state that has preserved some of the nation’s strictest and longest-lasting restrictions. Officials said the state would unveil more details next week. (Colliver and Luthi, 2/7)

Modesto Bee:
Stanislaus County Could Lift COVID-19 Emergency Declaration 

Stanislaus County supervisors on Tuesday will consider ending a local emergency that was declared, March 11, 2020, and that helped county administrators respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposed board action would change administrative procedures but also would shift the focus of dealing with COVID-19, a contagious disease that has killed 1,565 county residents in almost two years. (Carlson, 2/7)

San Francisco Chronicle:
Bay Area COVID Deaths Rise Sharply, Even As Cases Fall

The number of daily COVID deaths reported in the Bay Area has doubled from two weeks ago but appears to be leveling off in recent days. At the same time, cases and hospitalizations of patients with COVID continue to plunge from the height of the omicron surge. Coronavirus fatalities in the region have ticked up since Jan. 24, from 11 per day to 22 per day as of Monday, according to state data on seven-day averages of new daily deaths. Statewide, the number of people dying from COVID-19 has climbed from 120 per day to 184 per day over the same period. With the rapid transmission rate of the now-dominant omicron variant of the coronavirus, and continued high case numbers, people are now dying at a much higher rate than they were during the delta summer surge. (Vaziri, 2/7)

Biden Officials Trying To Recalculate U.S. Covid-19 Hospitalizations 

The Biden administration is working on recalculating the number of Covid-19 hospitalizations in the U.S., according to two senior officials familiar with the matter. A task force comprised of scientists and data specialists at the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working with hospitals nationwide to improve Covid-19 reporting. The group is asking hospitals to report numbers of patients who go to the facility because they have Covid-19 and separate those from individuals who go in for other reasons and test positive after being admitted, the two officials said. (Banco, 2/7)

Sacramento Bee:
Sacramento County To Give COVID Bonuses To Essential Workers 

Sacramento County plans to give a one-time bonus of $1,500 or 40 hours of administrative time off to thousands of public employees as a form of hazard pay for working during the COVID-19 pandemic. The money comes from a federal coronavirus relief package President Joe Biden signed last year, which authorized government agencies to distribute special pay to essential workers. (McGough, 2/8)

Bay Area News Group:
What Does COVID-19 Do To Your Brain?

Even after the SARS CoV-2 virus has been subdued, the immune system can’t calm down. That is the current theory about what’s behind the strange, lingering and debilitating neurological symptoms of some COVID-19 patients, such as the commonly reported “brain fog,” according to a recent paper in the journal Science. (Krieger, 2/7)

Los Angeles Times:
Nursing Home Infamous For High Number Of COVID Deaths To Close 

Kingston Healthcare Center in Bakersfield — a long-troubled nursing home that saw 19 residents die during an early COVID outbreak — announced it would close after the Department of Health and Health Services said the facility could no longer receive Medicare or Medicaid payments. The department cited a long history of health code and other violations. (Mozingo, 2/7)

Voice Of San Diego:
Free COVID Testing At Trolley Stations Plagued By Delays And Missing Results

As the Omicron variant spiked COVID-19 cases across the region, many struggled to find testing options. At-home antigen tests became nearly impossible to find in stores, and lines at PCR testing sites often stretched for blocks. But one company, TestSD, which set up COVID-19 testing sites at trolley stops throughout San Diego, seemed to be a quick and easy option. That was until individuals encountered long wait times for results — sometimes as long as 13 days. And for some, the results never came. (McWhinney, 2/8)

USA Today:
Vaccination A Major Benefit For Expectant Mothers, New Studies Show

Pregnant women have long been advised to avoid alcohol and tobacco and to take folic acid. In the age of the coronavirus, getting the COVID-19 vaccine is also strongly recommended. Vaccination helps protect not only expectant mothers but also their babies, both in utero and after birth, according to two separate studies whose conclusions run counter to common misinformation about the vaccine and pregnancy. A study funded by the National Institutes of Health suggests pregnant women with at least moderate COVID-19 symptoms are at greater risk for pregnancy complications — besides the health impacts of the disease — than those not infected or with mild or no symptoms. (Ortiz, Bacon and Tebor, 2/7)

Noticias Telemundo:
A Latina Scientist Co-Created A New Covid Vaccine. She’s Nominated For The Nobel Peace Prize

María Elena Bottazzi doesn’t forget where she comes from. Her face softens as she, in the midst of complex scientific terms, speaks of Honduras as if she had left Tegucigalpa, its capital, yesterday. “It never crossed my mind to look for a job at a multinational” company, she said with a broad smile in a video interview with Noticias Telemundo. “I am Central American and doing nonprofit projects is my way of giving back a little of what Honduras has given me.” (Linares, 2/7)

UCLA Settles Gynecologist Abuse Suit For More Than $100M

The University of California has agreed to pay more than $100 million to settle allegations that several hundred women were sexually abused by a former UCLA gynecologist, lawyers announced. The settlement was announced Monday by some of the attorneys representing 203 women who said they were groped or otherwise abused by Dr. James Heaps over a 35-year career. Details weren’t released. (Jablon, 2/8)

Global Warming Could Cause More California Blackouts In The Next Decade

As climate change makes summers hotter, air conditioning may become more unreliable. A new report published in the online journal “Earth’s Future” finds that as summer temperatures increase, air conditioning use will drain energy supplies and leave California residents without power. The research paper predicts the state will experience at least seven days without power each summer in the next decade. (Cavanaugh, 2/7)

Can SF Use Lessons From Fighting COVID-19 To Reduce Fentanyl Overdose Deaths? 

San Francisco Mayor London Breed, whose early and robust moves to contain the coronavirus made the city something of a national model, is now urgently trying to confront another public health crisis — drug overdoses and disorder in the city’s Tenderloin neighborhood. Over the past two years, the city has seen more than 1,360 drug overdose fatalities — more than double the total COVID-19 death toll there. The majority of those deaths were in the Tenderloin and the nearby SoMa District, city data show. (Westervelt, 2/8)

ABC News:
Overdose Deaths Cost US $1 Trillion Annually, Bipartisan Report Finds

The drug overdose epidemic in the United States, now primarily driven by synthetic opioids like ultra-deadly fentanyl, costs the nation roughly $1 trillion a year, according to a new bipartisan congressional report released Tuesday. “Whether measured in lives or in dollars, the United States’ drug overdose epidemic should shock everyone,” the report reads. “It is unacceptable.” (Owen, 2/8)

Report: New Strategy For Opioids And A Cabinet-Level Leader 

The U.S. needs a nimble, multipronged strategy and Cabinet-level leadership to counter its festering overdose epidemic, a bipartisan congressional commission advises. With vastly powerful synthetic drugs like fentanyl driving record overdose deaths, the scourge of opioids awaits after the COVID-19 pandemic finally recedes, a shift that public health experts expect in the months ahead. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 2/8)

US Report Finds Mexico Is Dominant Source Of Fentanyl Trafficked Into US

A new government report out Tuesday details how opioid trafficking in the United States has changed in recent years, with Mexico now a “dominant source” of the country’s fentanyl supply and synthetic opioids rapidly saturating drug markets. In its report, the federal Commission on Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking — a bipartisan group of US lawmakers, experts and officials from federal departments and agencies — warns that if the US does nothing to change its response to the new challenges, more American lives will be lost. (Stracqualursi, 2/8)

Justice Dept. Signals It May Allow Safe Injection Sites 

A year after winning a major court battle against the opening of so-called safe injection sites — safe havens for people to use heroin and other narcotics with protections against fatal overdoses — the Justice Department is signaling it might be open to allowing them. In response to questions from The Associated Press, the Justice Department said it is “evaluating” such facilities and talking to regulators about “appropriate guardrails.” (Peltz and Balsamo, 2/8)

The Washington Post:
Inflation Hits Guacamole, Range Of Fresh Fruits And Veggies 

In the past year, inflation swerved around grocery stores like a wobbly shopping cart, slamming into the meat department, milk, eggs and even toothpaste. Fresh fruits and vegetables were largely spared. Until recently. The percentage increase in produce prices from November to December, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, was twice that of other food categories. (Prices for meats, poultry, fish and eggs actually declined a bit in December after rising for seven months straight). (Reiley, 2/7)

Voice of San Diego:
San Diego Misses Deadline For Homeless Housing Dollars Set Aside For Region

The county and cities throughout the region for months knew they had a shot at roughly $61 million in state money set aside for homeless housing projects in San Diego County if they applied by Jan. 31.  Yet the deadline came and went without any submissions from the San Diego region, the state’s housing department confirmed to Voice of San Diego. Local governments will instead forego the money reserved for San Diego to compete with other regions across the state before the latest round of funds run out. (Halverstadt and McWhinney, 2/8)

Los Angeles Times:
Silicon Valley Town Backs Down On Mountain-Lion Habitat Bid

Following four days of widespread scorn after attempting to block a new state law allowing duplexes on single-family lots by declaring itself a “mountain-lion habitat,” the wealthy Silicon Valley enclave of Woodside has backed down. At the end of a nearly 90-minute town emergency Town Council meeting Sunday night, almost all of which was held in closed session to discuss potential litigation, city officials announced they would begin accepting applications for new duplexes. (Dillon, 2/7)