Fresno Bee:
Fresno County COVID-19 Hospitalizations Rise Amid Omicron 

The number of people requiring a hospital bed in Fresno County who tested positive for COVID-19 climbed by nearly 50 over the weekend, according to state numbers on Monday. The total of 568 people in hospitals included 83 who required intensive care units to be treated, reports show. That’s 49 more people in area hospitals than on Friday. (Miller, 1/24)

City News Service:
Number Of COVID Patients In ICU Beds Continues To Rise In LA County 

The number of COVID-19-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospital intensive care units climbed near the 800 mark on Monday, Jan. 14, while another 27 virus-related deaths were reported. The overall number of COVID-positive patients in the county rose slightly to 4,573 on Monday, up from 4,568 on Sunday, according to state figures. That ended a three-day streak of falling hospital numbers. (1/24)

The (Santa Rosa) Press Democrat:
The Omicron Surge May Have Peaked In Sonoma County, But Health Officials Say Many More Infections To Come

Local infectious disease experts said Monday that the winter omicron surge in Sonoma County may have peaked, just as it appears to have in neighboring counties. But with an average of more than 1,000 residents still becoming infected with COVID-19 every single day, the omicron horror is far from over. And that 1,000 cases? That’s just the official number. (Espinoza, 1/24)

San Francisco Chronicle:
Here’s Where In The Bay Area Omicron Is Still Surging

The winter omicron surge appears to have peaked in most parts of the Bay Area — but a few counties are still at a plateau, indicating the region is not entirely out of the most meteoric phase of the pandemic. The seven-day average of daily coronavirus cases reported on Monday across the Bay Area was down about 34% compared with Jan. 17, according to data from the California Department of Public Health. That follows a statewide trend, with average daily cases down nearly 23% week over week. Despite the downturn, the rate of infection in terms of case numbers remains at a pandemic high. (Vaziri, 1/24)

Sacramento Bee:
40-Year-Old Dad Dies Of COVID After Vaccine Regrets In CA 

Days before his death from COVID-19, Christian Cabrera told his family he wished he’d made better choices. “I can’t breathe again,” the 40-year-old wrote in a text to his brother from his hospital bed, KTLA reported. “I really regret not getting my vaccine, if I can do it all over again I would do it in a heartbeat to save my life. I’m fighting for my life here and I wish I (had) gotten vaccinated.” (Sweeney, 1/24)

Los Angeles Times:
L.A. County Seeing More Fatalities From Omicron 

Deaths from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County have soared over the last week, with officials saying most of the recent fatalities appear to be from the Omicron variant. The spread of the latest coronavirus variant has moved with unprecedented speed since December, although officials have said people who get infected with Omicron generally get less severe symptoms than with the earlier Delta variant. Even so, officials say it is fatal for some. (Lin II, Money and Alpert Reyes, 1/24)

San Francisco Chronicle:
COVID In California: Omicron Appears To Kill Faster Than Other Coronavirus Strains, L.A. Data Shows

Los Angeles County data suggests that the highly infectious omicron variant strikes down its patients quicker than previous strains of the coronavirus, according to Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. The county last Thursday recorded 102 fatalities, the highest tally since March 2021. Ferrer said patients with omicron on average appear to be dying within 2-4 weeks after requiring hospitalization, compared with an average of 5 weeks observed with the delta variant. “It looks to us that folks may be progressing faster — folks who have omicron — so we’re seeing a much shorter timeframe,” from infection to death, said Ferrer. “It looks like they get hit pretty hard earlier on.” (Vaziri and Beamish, 1/24)

The Washington Post:
There’s A New Version Of Omicron But So Far It Doesn’tT Appear To Be More Dangerous

As a new version of the highly contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus spreads in parts of Asia and Europe, the World Health Organization recommended Monday that officials begin investigating its characteristics to determine whether it poses new challenges for pandemic-weary nations. Known as BA. 2, the new version of the virus is a descendant of the omicron variant responsible for huge surges of covid-19 in the United States and elsewhere around the globe. Virologists are referring to the original omicron variant as BA. 1. (Bernstein, 1/24)

Deseret News:
Stealth Omicron Variant Symptoms: What We Know So Far 

Scientists are starting to express concern about a new omicron variant subvariant — nicknamed “stealth omicron” — that has accounted for more COVID-19 case numbers in recent weeks. The news: Over the weekend, multiple scientists started to talk about the new subvariants of the omicron variant, BA.2 and BA.3. … There hasn’t been anything reported about unique omicron subvariant symptoms. So far, symptoms appear to be consistent with the omicron variant. (Scribner, 1/24)

The New York Times:
How Omicron’s Mutations Allow It To Thrive 

As nurses and doctors struggle with a record-breaking wave of Omicron cases, evolutionary biologists are engaged in a struggle of their own: figuring out how this world-dominating variant came to be. When the Omicron variant took off in southern Africa in November, scientists were taken aback by its genetic makeup. Whereas earlier variants had differed from the original Wuhan version of the coronavirus by a dozen or two mutations, Omicron had 53 — a shockingly large jump in viral evolution. (Zimmer, 1/24)

Omicron Survives Longer On Plastic, Skin Than Prior Variants

The Omicron variant can survive longer than earlier versions of the coronavirus on plastic surfaces and human skin, Japanese researchers found in laboratory tests. Its high “environmental stability” – its ability to remain infectious – might have helped Omicron replace Delta as the dominant variant and spread rapidly, they said. … On skin, all of the variants were completely inactivated by 15 seconds of exposure to alcohol-based hand sanitizers. (1/24)

Sacramento Bee:
Free N95 Masks At California Pharmacies During COVID Surge 

Californians will soon have increased access to the highly sought-after N95 masks for free at their local health centers and pharmacies. President Joe Biden’s administration announced that 400 million N95 masks from the Strategic National Stockpile will be shipped to pharmacies and community health centers across the country by the end of last week. This comes after health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agreed that N95s provide the highest level of protection from COVID-19. (Truong, 1/24)

NBC News:
Free N95 Masks Arriving At Pharmacies And Stores Around The Country

Masks are expected to begin arriving at Southeastern Grocers locations as early as Friday, and they will be available at the company’s Fresco y Más, Harveys Supermarket and Winn-Dixie in-store pharmacies. A spokesperson for Walgreens told NBC Chicago that the chain expects to start giving out masks at some locations by Friday, as well. “Participating stores will have signage indicating mask availability,” the spokesperson said. (Gregorian and Egan, 1/24)

Testing Shortages At Oakland Schools Leave Students And Teachers Frustrated

Teachers at Oakland’s Reach Academy were fed up. The elementary school on the eastern edge of the city has been overwhelmed by positive COVID cases since returning from winter break — the Oakland Unified School District’s dashboard tallies nearly 80 cases there in the first three weeks back. Teachers were desperate to stop more students and coworkers from turning up positive, but while some of their colleagues around the district planned sick-outs, Reach Academy staff hatched a plan to catch cases before kids entered the building. (Rancaño, 1/24)

Los Angeles Times:
Coronavirus Test Provider Says It Plans To Sue L.A. County Sheriff Villanueva Over China Claims 

The company that provides Los Angeles County with coronavirus testing said it plans to sue Sheriff Alex Villanueva for defamation over claims the sheriff made alleging the company has links to the Chinese government. Fulgent Genetics, the Temple City company contracted to administer tests and track the Villanueva orchestrated a briefing with FBI agents a day after Thanksgiving “in a last-ditch effort” to avoid complying with the county’s employee vaccine mandate, according to papers the company’s lawyers filed in court Friday. (Tchekmedyian, 1/24)

Pfizer And BioNTech Begin Clinical Trial For Omicron-Specific Vaccine

Pfizer and BioNTech have begun a clinical trial for their Omicron-specific Covid-19 vaccine candidate, they announced in a news release on Tuesday. The study will evaluate the vaccine for safety, tolerability and the level of immune response, as both a primary series and a booster dose, in up to 1,420 healthy adults ages 18 to 55. (Sealy, 1/25)

The Hill:
Study Finds High Levels Of Omicron-Fighting Antibodies Four Months After Pfizer Booster

A new study shows high levels of coronavirus antibodies that fight the omicron variant four months after a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine, a positive sign for the durability of a booster shot’s effectiveness.  The study from researchers at Pfizer, BioNTech and the University of Texas Medical Branch shows virus-fighting antibodies enduring four months after the third dose, helping answer the key question of how long protection from the booster shot lasts.  (Sullivan, 1/24)

FDA Halts Use Of Antibody Drugs That Don’t Work Vs. Omicron

COVID-19 antibody drugs from Regeneron and Eli Lilly should no longer be used because they don’t work against the omicron variant that now accounts for nearly all U.S. infections, U.S. health regulators said Monday. The Food and Drug Administration said it was revoking emergency authorization for both drugs, which were purchased by the federal government and have been administered to millions of Americans with COVID-19. If the drugs prove effective against future variants, the FDA said it could reauthorize their use. (Perrone, 1/24)

Sacramento Bee:
Can Cannabis Compound CBD Block COVID? Maybe, Study Finds 

One active ingredient in the cannabis plant – cannabidiol (CBD) – could potentially block COVID-19 infection, a new study suggests. If you’re wondering if this means you’ll be protected from the virus by smoking weed or vaping CBD, the answer is no. Here’s what the research means: You might’ve seen products with the non-psychoactive marijuana compound legally sold in stores and advertised with potential calming capabilities. However, the commercially available CBD that can be infused in food or drinks isn’t of the same quality as the CBD used in the study, authors point out in the peer-reviewed research published Jan. 20 in Science Advances. (Marnin, 1/24)

Modern Healthcare:
How Startup Insurers Captured Medicare Advantage Market Share

Startup health insurers grew their Medicare Advantage membership during the annual enrollment period, with some capturing market share from larger competitors like UnitedHealth Group, Humana and Cigna. Among the larger insurtechs, Devoted Health increased its membership the most, nearly doubling its beneficiary base to 63,046 from the start of December to beginning of January, according to federal data. The majority of the company’s growth and members came from Florida and Texas, states where more than 80% of Devoted’s members reside. Devoted is the last of the large insurtechs to remain private and, after raising a Series D round late last year, represents the most valuable of the health insurer upstarts with a valuation of $11.5 billion. (Tepper, 1/24)

Modesto Bee:
Ceres Residents Told To Shelter In Place For Hazmat Incident 

A shelter-in-place order has been lifted for Ceres residents near a hazmat fire that started Monday morning, the Modesto Fire Department said. Crews confined the smoldering sulfur fire in a 40,000-square-foot warehouse at Stanislaus Farm Supply, and there is no longer a health concern in the area. (Tracy and Gericke, 1/24)

Los Angeles Times:
For One Pasadena Neighborhood, Gun Violence Is Unrelenting 

In Pasadena, shootings rose 22% between 2020 and 2021, from 60 to 73, according to the police department. Seven were killed in 2020 and six more last year. The increase — part of a spike in homicides across Los Angeles County — has sparked grief, pain and outrage in a city marked by many upscale neighborhoods, as well as lower-income neighborhoods where crime has long been a problem, and some residents say city leaders are not doing enough to make conditions safer. (Solis, 1/25)

NBC News:
Giving Low-Income Families Cash Can Help Babies’ Brain Activity 

Supporting low-income families with cash could protect infants from the deleterious effects poverty has on brain development, research published Monday finds. The preliminary results from an ongoing clinical trial found that infants whose families received an extra $4,000 in annual income were more likely to show brain activity patterns associated with the development of thinking and learning. (Sullivan, 1/24)

Sacramento Bee:
Placer Officials To Vote On Anti-Camping Ordinance For Homeless 

Placer County’s homeless issues don’t get as much of a spotlight as other areas in the region or state, but it plans to address one — encampment on public properties — at its Board of Supervisors meeting. The five-member board will vote Tuesday on an ordinance that will limit camping on county property and in fire-prone areas. (Sullivan, 1/24)

Fresno Leaders Share Plans To Address Homelessness 

The city of Fresno added hundreds of shelter beds to provide emergency and temporary shelter, as well as transitional housing, to unhoused residents amid the pandemic, according to local leaders. It also provided homelessness services to thousands of people between July 2019 and December 2021, they said. But the city has more work to do to serve the needs of the region’s homeless population, city officials and homeless advocates said during last Thursday’s city council meeting. (Montalvo, 1/24)

Volunteers Needed For First Sacramento County Homelessness Count Since 2019 

A formal count of Sacramento County’s unsheltered homeless population will take place next month for the first time in three years. The federally funded Point-In-Time count usually takes place every two years, but was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic. As many as 500 volunteers will be needed this year for the in-person canvassing, according to Lisa Bates, chief executive officer of Sacramento Steps Forward, the nonprofit that runs the survey. (Nichols, 1/24)

The Washington Post:
Serial Murders, Beatings And Beheadings: Violence Against The Homeless Is Increasing, Advocates Say 

According to experts and advocates, the last year has seen a spike in violence against the homeless. There was a beheading in Colorado. A sleeping man lit on fire in the stairwell of a New York City apartment complex. An attack by four juveniles on a sleeping woman in Washington state. Beyond these lurid headlines, however, are dozens of daily acts of violence occasioned by increasing collisions between the housed and unhoused populations in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, experts say. (Swenson, 1/24)

San Francisco Chronicle:
Appeals Court Upholds San Francisco Law Protecting Tenants From ‘Eviction By Another Name’

A state appeals court on Monday upheld a San Francisco tenant-protection law that bars property owners from sidestepping the city’s limits on evictions by imposing huge, bad-faith rent increases to force renters to leave. The case tested the limits of the Costa-Hawkins Act, a California law backed by the real estate industry that banned local rent control on apartments built after February 1995 and on all single-family homes and condominiums. It did not limit a city or county’s authority to restrict tenant evictions, but the issue before the court was whether San Francisco’s eviction rules were a form of rent control. (Egelko, 1/24)


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