Southern California News Group:
Will LAUSD Drop Its Indoor Masking Mandate? It’s A Wait-And-See Scenario Now 

Although state and county health officials will allow school districts to stop requiring students to mask up inside the classroom starting March 12, there’s no guarantee that change will take place in Los Angeles Unified, the state’s largest district, at that time. In fact, the local teachers union – with whom the district must negotiate before it can lift its indoor masking mandate – has raised concerns about ending the masking requirement just yet. (Tat, 2/28)

Los Angeles Times:
L.A. County Aligns With California To End School Mask Mandate

Los Angeles County health officials on Monday said they will align with the state’s move to end indoor school masking requirements after March 11, giving officials in the county’s 80 schools districts — including L.A. Unified — the ability to make their own decision about whether to continue with local mandates. The decision sets up a likely conflict in L.A. Unified between those who favor indoor masking rules and those who don’t. The teachers union on Monday said it would be premature to end the mandate. (Blume, 2/28)

San Francisco Chronicle:
San Francisco Public Schools Won’t Drop Masks Despite City’s Health Officials And California Lifting Mandate

For the first time in two years, many students across California will get to walk into class without a mask starting on March 12, but those at San Francisco public schools won’t be among them. While vaccination rates are high and transmission rates are low in San Francisco, school officials said Monday that there will be no change to masking protocols. (Tucker, 2/28)

The (Santa Rosa) Press Democrat:
Sonoma County Cautious As California Eases Mask Requirements In Schools

California’s move to retire its statewide mask mandate in K-12 schools spurred cautious optimism from officials and parents Monday, but there remained lingering questions about whether Sonoma County’s 40 school districts will respond in a uniform way. And any changes that do occur may not be immediate. Santa Rosa City Schools, for instance, the county’s largest district, is taking a wait-and-see approach and will consult with unions and other stakeholders before lifting its mask requirements. (Tornay, 2/28)

Voice of OC:
Orange County Students Can Ditch Masks After March 11

Orange County children will be able take off their masks in schools beginning March 11, Gov. Gavin Newsom abruptly announced Monday morning. “Masks are an effective tool to minimize spread of the virus and future variants, especially when transmission rates are high. We cannot predict the future of the virus, but we are better prepared for it and will continue to take measures rooted in science to keep California moving forward,” Newsom said in a news release. (Custodio, 2/28)

Orange County Register:
Some Pleased In Orange County, Others Wary Of Mask Wearing Easing At Schools 

Over the past year, classroom masking requirements sparked intense debate online and at school board meetings, led to a lawsuit against the governor and prompted protests across Orange County and the state. So on Monday, as local school districts started preparing plans to go mask-optional in less than two weeks under newly announced changes to state guidelines, reactions from parents to teachers proved, perhaps unsurprisingly, mixed. (Sheets, 2/28)

Fresno Bee:
How Will Fresno’s Largest School Districts Handle Mask Rules?

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday students in schools will be encouraged — not required — to wear masks in class after March 11, but some Valley students already are ditching face coverings. Last week, Clovis Unified’s school board voted to change its policy so that unmasked students won’t be excluded from the classroom. The vote was met with loud cheers and applause from nearly 200 parents and students. (Calix, 2/28)

Sacramento Bee:
Rocklin Teachers Walk Out Of Class Over COVID Mask Rules

Nearly 200 Rocklin Unified School District educators called in sick or took leave Monday, protesting their district’s last-minute defiance of state-imposed K-12 mask mandates. An angry Rocklin Teachers Professional Association in a statement Monday afternoon said its teachers learned the district’s board held a special Feb. 23 meeting ahead of its regularly scheduled March 2 meeting on a day’s notice and during the district’s President’s Week break to adopt a new mask enforcement policy. (Smith and Sullivan, 2/28)

The Washington Post:
140 Million Americans Have Had Coronavirus, According To Blood Tests Analyzed By CDC 

More than 140 million Americans have had the coronavirus, according to estimates from blood tests that reveal antibodies from infection — about double the rate regularly cited by national case counts. The estimates, compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, show that about 43 percent of the country has been infected by the virus. The study shows that the majority of children have also been infected. (Keating, 2/28)

Orange County Register:
Coronavirus: L.A. County Reported 2,169 New Cases And 67 New Death Since Saturday 

Los Angeles County public health officials reported 2,169 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases to 2,796,560, since Saturday. The total number of cases represents 28% of Los Angeles County’s population as of Monday, Feb. 2. Officials reported 67 more deaths linked to the coronavirus since Saturday, for a total of 30,716 deaths since tracking began. The total number of deaths represents 0.29% of Los Angeles County’s population. (Goertzen, 2/28)

Los Angeles Daily News:
LA County’s COVID Hospitalizations Dip To 916, Easing Pressure On Medical Teams 

The number of COVID-19-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals continued its downward trajectory on Monday, Feb. 28, continuing to lessen the virus’ impact on the local health care system. According to state figures, there were 916 COVID-positive patients hospitalized locally, down from 975 on Sunday. Of those patients, 182 are in intensive care, down from 188 the previous day. (2/28)

White House: 40% Of Free COVID Tests To Low-Income Areas 

The White House says 40% of COVID-19 tests ordered through its program to distribute free at-home rapid tests have gone to Americans in distressed areas. That’s an upward revision from an estimate of around 20% of free tests ordered by people in “high vulnerability Zip Codes” that White House officials had earlier provided to The Associated Press. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 2/28)

The New York Times:
Pfizer Shot Is Far Less Effective In 5- To 11-Year-Olds Than In Older Kids, New Data Show 

The coronavirus vaccine made by Pfizer-BioNTech is much less effective in preventing infection in children ages 5 to 11 years than in older adolescents or adults, according to a large new set of data collected by health officials in New York State — a finding that has deep ramifications for these children and their parents. The Pfizer vaccine is the only Covid shot authorized for that age group in the United States. It still prevents severe illness in the children, but offers virtually no protection against infection, even within a month after full immunization, the data, which were collected during the Omicron surge, suggest. (Mandavilli and Weiland, 2/28)

The Bakersfield Californian:
Boys & Girls Clubs Of Kern County Hosting Vaccine Clinics In March 

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County is hosting a number of opportunities for community members to receive their COVID-19 vaccine. The Armstrong Youth Center and the Lamont Club are collaborating with the Bakersfield College Student Health and Wellness Center and Kern County Public Health to offer the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots to adults 18 and older and the Pfizer shot to everyone age 5 and up. (2/28)

Voice Of San Diego:
The Medical Board Is Investigating Multiple San Diego Doctors For Vaccine Exemptions  

A two-year legal battle has ended with a victory for those who want state authorities to crack down on questionable vaccine exemptions for public school students.  At the center of the fight: student medical records related to vaccine exemptions held by San Diego Unified School District. A San Diego Superior Court judge has ruled late last year those records can be used by Medical Board officials to investigate bogus exemptions.   (Huntsberry, 2/25)

Biden To Launch Ambitious Overhaul Of Nursing Home Quality

President Joe Biden will use his State of the Union speech to launch a major overhaul of nursing home quality, including minimum staffing levels and steps to beef up inspections while continuing to keep COVID-19 at bay. White House officials on Monday outlined more than 20 separate actions, many of them sought by advocates and opposed by the industry. One major missing element: New sources of federal financing to pay for the ambitious upgrade. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 3/1)

Modern Healthcare:
Biden To Announce Nursing Home Reforms In State Of The Union Address

Under Biden’s directive, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will publish regulations addressing safety and quality. That will include minimum staffing requirements, standards to reduce overcrowding, rules to address the overuse of antipsychotic medications and stepped up inspections and enforcement, including financial penalties for noncompliant nursing homes. Biden previously proposed minimum nurse-to-patient ratios, along with a requirement that a registered nurse be on duty at all times. The administration wants Congress to empower CMS to publicly hold nursing home chain owners—with histories of safety and quality failures—to account. CMS also will investigate the consequences of private equity firms owning nursing homes, which has been linked to poorer care. (Hellmann and Goldman, 2/28)

Biden Steps To State Of The Union Lectern At Fraught Moment 

Facing disquiet at home and danger abroad, President Joe Biden will deliver his first State of the Union address at a precipitous moment for the nation, aiming to navigate the country out a pandemic, reboot his stalled domestic agenda and confront Russia’s aggression. The speech Tuesday night had initially been conceived by the White House as an opportunity to highlight the improving coronavirus outlook and rebrand Biden’s domestic policy priorities as a way to lower costs for families grappling with soaring inflation. But it has taken on new significance with last week’s Russian invasion of Ukraine and nuclear saber-rattling by Vladimir Putin. (Miller and Long, 3/1)

The State Of COVID-19 In The State Of The Union 

It might be tempting for President Joe Biden to declare victory over COVID-19 in his State of the Union speech tonight, but that would be premature. He can, however, claim progress. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just released most of the United States from mask-wearing but, by its original metrics, most of America still has a high rate of COVID-19 transmission. Members of Congress will sit maskless in front of the president, some of them applauding, some not, but the visual message if they were masked would be that the pandemic remains in full bloom. (Tompkins, 3/1)

Axios-Ipsos Poll: Americans Are Over COVID, But Give Biden Little Credit 

Americans are abandoning COVID-19 fears and precautions, a sea change in the past few weeks as severe illnesses fell, states dropped mandates and the CDC relaxed guidelines, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index. As President Biden gives his State of the Union address tonight, more people feel the worst is behind them — but they aren’t giving him credit. That’s a devastating miss for a leader who won election on his promises to move the nation beyond the pandemic. (Talev, 3/1)

Bay Area News Group:
UC Berkeley Loses CRISPR Gene Editing Patent Case

UC Berkeley’s Jennifer Doudna earned a Nobel Prize her lab’s work on Crispr-Cas9, a revolutionary method to edit DNA. But on Monday, UC lost its patent rights. Ending — for now — a long, vitriolic and expensive fight over commercial application of a pioneering tool that is transforming biological research, a board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled on Monday that use of the genome editing technology in humans belongs to the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, not UC Berkeley. (Krieger, 2/28)

San Diego Union-Tribune:
La Mesa Veteran Turns 100 With A Little Help From His High-Tech Heart 

A foundry worker in the Navy for more than two decades, Velvin Bill of La Mesa often cast metal parts for broken ship pumps, allowing vessels to stay underway many decades after they were built. It’s fitting, then, that this World War II veteran arrived at his 100th birthday last week with a little help for his own personal pump. Two years ago, he received a high-tech heart valve when his original equipment began to fail. (Sisson, 2/27)

New Research Sheds Light On How Often Breast Cancer Is Overdiagnosed

Catching cancer early in a mammogram can be life-saving — smaller tumors are  easier to remove surgically, and therapy often has a much greater effect. But paradoxically, breast cancer screening also sometimes picks up tumors that would have caused less harm if they’d remained hidden. These cases, known as “overdiagnoses,” may never go on to pose a threat to a patient’s health for a number of different reasons. A new study, published Monday in Annals of Internal Medicine, suggests they occur in 1 of 7 breast cancer cases detected during screening. That new estimate comes as a relief to breast cancer clinicians, who say that the study should reinforce the idea that the benefits of mammography generally outweigh its risks. Still, experts said, it doesn’t minimize the real danger of overdiagnosis or the need to effectively communicate the risks and benefits of screening to patients. (Chen, 2/28)

Modern Healthcare:
Duke Estimates 15% Of Breast Cancer Cases Are Overdiagnosed

One in seven women who are diagnosed with breast cancer after a mammogram with no previous symptoms are overdiagnosed and likely overtreated, according to a new estimate from researchers at Duke University. The new estimate published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on Monday provides doctors and their patients a closer estimate of how likely women will end up dying of other causes than their diagnosed breast tumors. (Gillespie, 2/28)

FDA Approves Second CAR-T Cancer Therapy To Treat Multiple Myeloma

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved a new CAR-T therapy for multiple myeloma, a move that could ease strain on limited supplies of potentially lifesaving cancer therapies. The treatment, called cilta-cel and developed by Janssen and Legend Biotech, involves taking immune cells from a patient’s own body and engineering them in a lab to fight a patient’s cancer. Since the first such treatment for multiple myeloma was approved last year, manufacturing challenges have severely hamstrung supply — leaving eligible patients waiting for weeks or months to receive the engineered cells. (Chen, 2/28)

Los Angeles Times:
Ambulance Workers In L.A., O.C. Protest For Higher Wages

Emergency medical technicians protested Monday for higher wages in Los Angeles and Orange counties, arguing that paltry pay had drained workers from their company, hampering its response times. “Fifteen dollars — the minimum wage — is not enough money for the work that you guys do,” Phil Petit, national director of the International Assn. of EMTs and Paramedics, told dozens of Care Ambulance workers clad in red shirts outside Los Angeles City Hall. (Alpert Reyes, 2/28)

San Diego Union-Tribune:
Could Doulas Make Childbirth Safer For Black Mothers? 

 A proposed county pilot program would provide professional pregnancy and labor support for mothers of color with the goal of reducing childbirth-related deaths and complications. The San Diego County Board of Supervisors will consider a $400,000 pilot program Tuesday to provide services by doulas — labor attendants who help new and expectant mothers with prenatal care and childbirth. (Brennan, 2/28)

Amazon’s Voice Assistant Alexa To Start Seeking Doctor Help 

If there is no doctor in the house, Amazon’s Alexa will soon be able to summon one. Amazon and telemedicine provider Teladoc Health are starting a voice-activated virtual care program that lets customers get medical help without picking up their phones. The service, for health issues that aren’t emergencies, will be available around the clock on Amazon’s Echo devices. Customers can tell the voice assistant Alexa that they want to talk to a doctor, and that will prompt a call back on the device from a Teladoc physician. (Murphy and D’Innocenzio, 2/28)

Democrats’ Signature Abortion Rights Bill Falls Short As SCOTUS Ruling Looms

The Senate failed to advance the Women’s Health Protection Act on Monday night — leaving Democratic advocates and lawmakers wondering what else, if anything, the party can do to protect abortion rights as they come under attack from federal courts and Republican-led states. The 46-48 vote comes just a few months before the Supreme Court is to rule on half-century old protections for the procedure and before the midterm elections, when many expect Democrats to lose control of one or both chambers of Congress. (Ollstein, 2/28)

Senate Republicans Block Bill That Would Preserve The Right To Abortion 

The bill, dubbed the Women’s Health Protection Act, aimed to “protect a person’s ability to determine whether to continue or end a pregnancy, and to protect a health care provider’s ability to provide abortion services.” The House had passed the legislation in a nearly party-line vote in late September — even though the bill was not expected to have the necessary votes to pass the 50-50 Senate, as legislation in the chamber requires Republicans to join Democrats to get at least 60 votes to break a filibuster. The bill’s failure to advance in the Senate comes as Republican-led states have introduced and advanced bills across the nation that make it harder for women to access abortions and threaten health-care providers who perform the procedure. (Mizelle, Zaslav and Barrett, 2/28)

CBS News:
More Abbott Baby Formula Recalled After Reports Of Illnesses 

Abbott has issued a recall for another lot of baby formula after an additional child who is believed to have consumed the formula fell ill and later died, the FDA said Monday. The recall affects one lot of Similac PM 60/40 that was made at Abbott Nutrition’s Sturgis, Michigan, facility. Parents should check any purchased formula for the lot code # 27032K80 (can) or # 27032K800 (case) and throw it away if it matches, the FDA said. Consumers can also use this link to check if they should throw away their formula. (Jones, 2/28)

What To Know About The CDC’s Updated Developmental Milestones For Infants And Young Children

In 2004, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released developmental milestone checklists for infants and young children to help parents track their child’s development and intervene if it seemed a child was delayed. The benchmarks, part of the CDC’s “Learn the Signs. Act Early” developmental monitoring program, remained unaltered for decades. But that changed on Feb. 8, when the agency, in partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics, announced that the milestones had been revised. (Putterman, 2/28)

Fact Check: Did CDC Lower Speech Standard For Children Because Of Masking?

A discussion is raging on social media regarding whether mask mandates and isolation as a result of COVID measures have caused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to lower speech standards for children. Several social media users are misleadingly linking a recent CDC guidance update to face masks and other virus-countering restrictions introduced in the U.S. since the COVID pandemic began. (Lea, 2/24)

Capitol Weekly:
California, Shockingly, Has The Lowest Literacy Rate Of Any State

Decades of underinvestment in schools, culture battles over bilingual education, and dizzying levels of income inequality have pushed California to the bottom of the pile, making it the least literate state in the nation. Nearly 1 in 4 people over the age of 15 lack the skills to decipher the words in this sentence. Only 77 percent of adults are considered mid to highly literate, according to the nonpartisan data crunchers at World Population Review. (Shuck, 2/28)

California Made A Historic Investment In School Counselors. Is It Enough?

For the first time in more than a decade, California invested significantly in school counselors last year as the pandemic spurred a mental health crisis among young people. But even with more funds and a soaring need, California’s school student-to-counselor ratio still ranks near the bottom nationally. According to the national rankings released last month by the American School Counselor Association, California schools have an average of 527 students for each counselor, more than double the recommended ratio of 250-to-1. Only five states had fewer counselors per student. (Jones, 3/1)

Sacramento Bee:
CalPERS Retirees To Get Pension COLAs After High Inflation 

CalPERS is adding the largest cost-of-living increases to retirees’ pensions in 32 years due to high inflation. Public employees who retired between 2006 and 2014 and some others will receive a 4.7% bump this year, according to figures the California Public Employees’ Retirement System posted to its website Thursday. (Venteicher, 2/28)

Why West Oakland’s Only Full-Service Grocery Store Closed

Despite all of the hurdles, Community Foods Market opened on June 1, 2019, with a euphoric celebration outside. The market had features common to most full-scale grocery stores, like a butcher counter and café. There was a “Wall of Value,” and organic products, all on offer after extensive neighborhood feedback. It was staffed primarily by people from the neighborhood. (Wall, 2/28)

Sacramento Bee:
New Rancho San Miguel Markets Opens In ‘Food Desert’  Oak Park

A new grocery store is opening in Oak Park on Broadway this week, providing a vital access point to affordable and healthy foods in a historically underresourced neighborhood. Rancho San Miguel Market will open its doors at 4401 Broadway on Wednesday, filling the void left by the closure of Food Source in March 2020. Operated by the employee-owned company PAQ Inc., Rancho San Miguel Market was originally scheduled to open in October, but delayed because of pandemic-related supply chain issues. (Yoon-Hendricks, 2/28)

The New York Times:
Dr. Bronner’s, The Soap Company, Dips Into Psychedelics 

Dr. Bronner’s, the liquid soap company based in Vista, Calif., that is best known for its teeny-font labels preaching brotherly love and world peace, would like you to consider the benefits of mind-altering drugs. The sentiment is promoted on limited-edition soap bottles that sing the praises of psychedelic-assisted therapies, and through the trippy pronouncements of David Bronner, grandson of the company’s founder and one of its top executives, who is not shy about sharing details of his many hallucinogenic journeys. (Jacobs, 2/28)

Voice Of San Diego:
Streets Of Despair: Street Homelessness Appears To Be Surging In San Diego

Street homelessness and the misery tied to it appear to be surging to new highs across San Diego. Tents and makeshift homes line downtown sidewalks, open space in Balboa Park and other corners of the city. Dozens of residents created a village along Sports Arena Boulevard in the Midway District that eventually drew the sort of clean-up operations and police crackdowns typically concentrated downtown.  (Halverstadt, 2/28)

The Washington Post:
Humanity Has A ‘Brief And Rapidly Closing Window’ To Avoid A Hotter, Deadly Future, U.N. Climate Report Says

In the hotter and more hellish world humans are creating, parts of the planet could become unbearable in the not-so-distant future, a panel of the world’s foremost scientists warned Monday in an exhaustive report on the escalating toll of climate change. Unchecked greenhouse gas emissions will raise sea levels several feet, swallowing small island nations and overwhelming even the world’s wealthiest coastal regions. Drought, heat, hunger and disaster may force millions of people from their homes. Coral reefs could vanish, along with a growing number of animal species. Disease-carrying insects would proliferate. Deaths — from malnutrition, extreme heat, pollution — will surge. (Kaplan and Dennis, 2/28)

The New York Times:
Supreme Court Considers Limiting E.P.A.’s Ability To Address Climate Change 

Members of the Supreme Court’s conservative majority on Monday questioned the scope of the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate carbon emissions from power plants, suggesting that the justices could deal a sharp blow to the Biden administration’s efforts to address climate change. The questioning during the two-hour argument was mostly technical, and several conservative justices did not tip their hands. But those who did sounded skeptical that Congress had meant to give the agency what they said was vast power to set national economic policy. (Liptak, 2/28)

California Reps Ask US For New Water Study At Former Base

Two California congressmembers are asking the federal government to study whether there’s evidence that potential toxic and contaminated drinking water at Fort Ord can be tied to specific cancers and other diseases. “Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to our servicemembers and their families,” said Reps. Katie Porter and Jimmy Panetta in a letter to the director of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. “By conducting a new study at Fort Ord, we may guarantee that those harmed while serving our country get the medical care they need.” (Mendoza, 2/25)

Bay Area News Group:
Dianne Feinstein’s Husband Richard Blum Dies After Long Battle With Cancer

Richard C. Blum, a longtime Bay Area businessman and husband of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, died at home Sunday night after a long battle with cancer. He was 86 years old. Blum served as president and chairman of Blum Capital Partners, an equity investment company he founded in 1975, and was a longtime member for the University of California Board of Regents, the body that oversees the system. (Linn and Deruy, 2/28)