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LA County’s Indoor Mask Mandate Likely To End Friday: Los Angeles County will likely lift its universal indoor mask mandate Friday, a significant acceleration of the expected timeline following changes in federal face-covering guidance. It had been anticipated to take place in mid- or late March. Read more from the Los Angeles Times, LA Daily News and AP.

Advice For Dealing With Grief After Sacramento-Area Shooting: Following the Sacramento-area mass shooting Monday evening that left three children dead in what appears to be a domestic violence issue, parents and teachers may be wondering how to approach this news with young kids. Mental health experts from the Sacramento region shared insight on how to navigate the loss together. Read more from The Sacramento Bee.

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


NBC News:
Biden Says Americans Can ‘Remove Their Masks,’ Resume Pre-Covid Work, Life Routines


President Joe Biden said in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night that the world had “reached a new moment” in the coronavirus pandemic and called on Americans to begin resuming their pre-Covid work and lifestyle routines. “Because of the progress we’ve made, because of your resilience and the tools we have, tonight I can say we are moving forward safely, back to more normal routines,” Biden said. “We can end the shutdown of schools and businesses. We have the tools we need,” he added a moment later. “It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again. People working from home can feel safe to begin to return to the office. (Edelman, 3/1)


AP:
Analysis: Biden Seeks ‘Reset’ On Pandemic And His Presidency


Midway through his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Biden pleaded with the country to finally, after nearly 1 million deaths, stop viewing the coronavirus as a political fault line. “Let’s use this moment to reset,” he said. It was a phrase that applied to much more than the pandemic. After a first year that saw his most ambitious plans stall and his public approval ratings plunge, Biden delivered an address that sought to turn the page and prepare his party for midterm elections in November. (Megerian, 3/2)


Stat:
Biden Walks A Fine Line On Covid Optimism In State Of The Union


In addition to the public health measures, Biden announced that the Department of Justice would soon appoint a chief prosecutor for pandemic fraud, with the intention of “going after the criminals who stole billions in relief money meant for small businesses and millions of Americans.” (Facher, 3/1)


CNBC:
People Who Test Positive For Covid Can Receive Antiviral Pills At Pharmacies For Free, Biden Says


President Joe Biden on Tuesday said the Americans who test positive for Covid-19 can receive antiviral pills for free at local pharmacies and community health centers under a new program that launches this month. “We’re launching the ‘Test to Treat’ initiative so people can get tested at a pharmacy, and if they’re positive, receive antiviral pills on the spot at no cost,” Biden said during his State of the Union speech Tuesday. The administration will launch hundreds of sites nationwide at CVS, Walgreens and Kroger as well as community health centers this month, a White House official said. (Kimball, 3/1)


CNN:
Americans Can Order Another Round Of Free At-Home Covid-19 Tests Next Week


Americans can order additional free at-home Covid-19 tests supplied by the US government starting next week. “If you already ordered free tests, tonight, I’m announcing you can order another group of tests. Go to Covidtest.gov starting next week and you can get more tests,” President Joe Biden said during his Tuesday State of the Union address. In January, the government launched its effort to provide free rapid antigen tests to any household that requested them through that website or by calling 800-232-0233. There was a limit of four tests per residential address. (Dillinger and Mizelle, 3/1)


Politico:
White House To Unveil Blueprint For The Next Covid Phase 


The White House is planning to unveil its wide-ranging strategy for the next phase of the pandemic response on Wednesday morning, according to an internal document obtained by POLITICO. The Covid-19 strategy is expected to lay out how the nation can safely ease public health restrictions and restore some sense of normalcy as the U.S. enters what officials hope will be a less disruptive endemic stage of the virus. (Cancryn, 3/1)


CBS News:
Biden Uses State Of The Union To Call For Focus On “Burn Pits,” Which He Believes Affected His Son Beau 


President Biden on Tuesday used his first State of the Union address to issue a call to action for Congress to do more to assist veterans experiencing enduring health issues after exposure to burn pits while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, elevating a matter that hits close to home for him. Mr. Biden raised the long-term harms to veterans who were exposed to burn pit smoke while deployed overseas as he laid out his four-pronged so-called “unity agenda,” which included enhanced support for veterans. (Quinn, 3/1)


Military Times:
Biden Vows VA Will Do Better On Veterans’ Burn Pit Illnesses


“I’m calling on Congress: pass a law to make sure veterans devastated by toxic exposures in Iraq and Afghanistan finally get the benefits and comprehensive health care they deserve,” Biden said in his national address, calling it part of “a sacred obligation to equip all those we send to war and care for them and their families when they come home.” Earlier in the day, the White House announced that the Department of Veterans Affairs will recognize nine new respiratory illnesses as conditions presumed linked to veterans’ military service, fast tracking them for payouts and medical care. VA officials said the move will likely affect only about 100 veterans who were previously denied for claims linked to those rare cancers. (Shane III, 3/2)


Bay Area News Group:
San Jose Drops Public Venue Booster Mandate


As COVID-related health orders are being eased across the Bay Area, San Jose is joining the trend by ending one booster shot mandate and potentially loosening up another. San Jose no longer will require people attending events at city-owned facilities like the SAP Center and Center for Performing Arts to show proof of having received a booster shot before entering. (Angst, 3/1)


Orange County Register:
Readers Said They’ll Follow (Or Not) These COVID Rules When Mask Mandates End 


With California ending mask mandates in schools and most pandemic restrictions fading away, we asked readers if they plan to continue with any of the protocols despite lifted mandates. Many of the responses indicated a lot of readers plan to continue wearing masks and playing it safe in terms of crowds and public spaces. Often those individuals pointed to family members who remain at risk whether through age, immunocompromised health conditions or young children who remain unvaccinated. Others said they plan to continue out of an abundance of caution and that many of the measures, like wearing masks, didn’t bother them and conveyed respect to their friends and neighbors. (Tedford, 3/1)


Palm Springs Desert Sun:
Senior Center Masking Rules Vary Across The Coachella Valley


Some senior centers in the Coachella Valley aren’t budging on their COVID-19 vaccination requirements, even as Palm Springs, which has had the most restrictive measures in the valley, lifted its mask mandate and other prevention protocols Monday. Despite relatively high vaccination rates, the 65-and-older population is still considered to be a “vulnerable” one. (Sestito, 3/1)


Modesto Bee:
Oakdale Will Stop Excluding Students Who Don’t Wear A Mask


Oakdale Joint Unified School District no longer will exclude students from class for not wearing a mask and will instead rely on education and notification for the nine remaining school days under California’s K-12 school mask mandate. Stanislaus school officials for the county’s other largest districts said in messages sent to families Monday that they will follow state officials’ directions and make masks optional March 12. Masks still are required inside school buildings until then. (Isaacman, 3/1)


Bay Area News Group:
East Bay High School District Drops Mask Mandate For Students Weeks Early


Students at Brentwood and Oakley high schools will now have a choice whether to wear masks at school, so said Liberty Union District trustees on Tuesday. With California’s indoor mask mandate expiring in two weeks, students in public schools no longer must wear them come March 12 though they still strongly recommended, but the East Contra Costa County district will stop enforcing the requirement immediately. (Prieve, 3/1)


San Francisco Chronicle:
School Districts Lifting Mask Mandates In Santa Clara County, Alameda County, Contra Costa And Other Bay Area Regions


After anxiously awaiting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement about the mask mandate in schools, districts across the Bay Area have received an answer — but not all are following in the state’s footsteps. California joined Oregon and Washington in lifting school mask mandates, officials announced Monday. The requirement will end March 12 across the state, and six Bay Area counties —Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Solano, San Mateo, San Francisco and Sonoma — have announced they will immediately adopt the state guidance. Alameda County officials said they would issue a decision this week. Marin and Napa counties have not yet decided on any changes. (Vainshtein, 3/1)


EdSource:
New LAUSD Superintendent On Enrollment Declines, School Choice And Covid 


New Los Angeles schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho has packed in a lot during his first three weeks on the job — overseeing changes to the district’s mask mandates and debuting an extensive 100-day plan outlining his priorities for the district. Carvalho, who comes to Los Angeles Unified after serving nearly 14 years as the superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, is faced with a number of challenges made worse by the pandemic. (Sequeira, 3/2)


AP:
Hawaii To Lift COVID-19 Travel Quarantine Rules This Month


Hawaii plans to lift its COVID-19 quarantine requirement for travelers this month, meaning that starting on March 26 those arriving from other places in the U.S. won’t have to show proof of vaccination or a negative test to avoid sequestering themselves for five days. Hawaii is the only U.S. state to implement a coronavirus quarantine program of this kind. (McAvoy, 3/2)


The Wall Street Journal:
Carnival And Norwegian Cruises Go Masks-Optional For Most


Major cruise lines including Carnival and Norwegian are loosening onboard mask rules starting Tuesday. Carnival Cruise Line recommends—but doesn’t require—masks on board starting March 1. The same policy goes for Norwegian Cruise Line ships departing from U.S. ports. Royal Caribbean Cruises relaxed its mask requirements for fully vaccinated guests in February. They are optional for fully vaccinated guests. (Pohle, 3/1)


Orange County Register:
California Nears 75% Vaccination Rate Against Coronavirus, But Stubborn Gaps Remain 


Stubborn gaps in California’s vaccination efforts remain. While nearly three-quarters of Golden State residents have received two shots, far fewer have gotten the booster that scientists say triggers deeper immune responses and may provide much longer-lasting protection, according to data from the California Department of Public Health. Black and Latino residents continue to have the lowest vaccination rates in the state, with Southern California’s inland counties less protected than their coastal neighbors. (Sforza, 3/1)


Stat:
CDC Data Suggest Pfizer Vaccine Protection Holds Up In Kids 5-11


Does the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine provide less protection to children aged 5 to 11 than to adolescents 12 to 17? A study from New York state released Monday suggests that’s the case. But new data from 10 states released Tuesday tell a different story. The data, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggest that two doses of the Pfizer vaccine aren’t very protective against infection for either age group in the face of the Omicron variant, but that protection against severe illness appears to be holding up equally in both sets of children. They do not suggest more rapid waning, or more marked waning, among the younger group of children. (Branswell, 3/1)


AP:
Pfizer Shots Protect Kids From Severe COVID Even In Omicron


Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine gave children 5 and older strong protection against hospitalization and death even during the omicron surge that hit youngsters especially hard, U.S. health officials reported Tuesday. New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention come a day after a study of New York children suggested the vaccine may not be as effective in 5- to 11-year-olds as in older kids — especially at blocking milder infections. That data raised the question of whether kid-sized doses given to those under 12 might be too low. (Neergaard, 3/1)


NBC News:
Long Covid Symptoms May Be Linked To Nerve Damage, A Small Study Suggests


A study published Tuesday could offer new clues about a potential cause of long Covid-19 symptoms — and possible avenues for treatment. The small, 17-person study, led by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and the National Institutes of Health, examined the many symptoms behind long Covid and found they may, in part, be driven by long-term nerve damage. … Evaluations of the 17 patients studied found evidence of peripheral neuropathy in 59 percent of them, or 10 people. (McCausland, 3/2)


Modesto Bee:
What Are The Lingering Symptoms Of Long-Term COVID-19? 


Douglas Schmidt’s battle with COVID-19 was more harrowing than most, including seven weeks of mostly intensive care at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center. As the coronavirus pandemic shows signs of fading away in Stanislaus County, more attention turns to people like Schmidt who were disabled by the respiratory virus that may attack different organs in the body. (Carlson, 3/1)


Capital & Main:
The Baffling Case Of Gov. Newsom’s Indifference To Public Health Departments


For health workers on the front lines of California’s COVID fight, one of the more baffling moments of the pandemic occurred in relative obscurity last May, with the state suddenly awash in tens of billions of dollars in extra revenue. Gov. Gavin Newsom saw an opportunity to put that unexpected surplus to work. His office dramatically revised his proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, asking for $1 billion to expand Medi-Cal, $7 billion to convert hotel rooms to permanent housing for the homeless and money to beef up mental health services, food and shelter for some of the state’s most vulnerable people. (Kreidler, 3/1)


San Francisco Chronicle:
As Fentanyl Ravages San Francisco, There’s Been A Sudden Shift In The Debate Over A Get-Tough Method Of Rehab Emphasizing Abstinence


Desperate to combat a drug epidemic that’s cost more than 1,300 lives in the past two years, San Francisco officials are pushing to get more people into treatment and spending millions on expanding existing programs and creating new ones. Now, some city leaders and nonprofits are reviving talk of a get-tough method of rehab that has been largely rejected throughout the U.S. since the 1990s — placing a primary emphasis on requiring clients to shake their addictions without medication or relapses, loosely referred to as abstinence. (Fagan, 3/1)


The Hill:
Supreme Court Grapples With Drug-Dealing Convictions For Opioid Prescribers


The doctors, both sentenced to more than 20 years in prison, are challenging their convictions, arguing that medical professionals should not be tried as drug dealers when they believe they are prescribing medication for a legitimate medical purpose. … The arguments on Tuesday focused on close readings of the criminal law around controlled substances, which ban the distribution of those medications unless prescribed by a licensed doctor “acting in the usual course of his professional practice.” (Neidig, 3/1)


Stateline:
States Likely To Resist CDC Proposal Easing Opioid Access


The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month proposed new guidelines that would ease restrictions on prescription opioids, but states might balk at lifting limits on painkillers that have fueled the nation’s deadly overdose epidemic. The proposed recommendations aim to give millions of Americans suffering intractable and chronic pain better access to the opioid painkillers their doctors say they need. At the same time, the proposed guidelines caution against starting any new patients on the highly addictive painkillers unless nothing else works. (Vestal, 3/1)


Bay Area News Group:
Elizabeth Holmes Case: Bail Tightened For Theranos Fraudster


The federal court judge set to sentence convicted fraudster Elizabeth Holmes in September ordered Tuesday that she put up property worth $500,000 to help ensure she will not flee to avoid an expected multi-year prison sentence. The Theranos founder was convicted by a jury in January in U.S. District Court in San Jose of four felony counts, for defrauding investors in her Palo Alto blood-testing startup. Those investors lost $144 million, with legal experts saying Judge Edward Davila, during Holmes’ sentencing, may consider the entirety of funders’ losses, which the federal government has alleged topped $700 million. Holmes, the mother of a child born in July, has remained free during her legal proceedings and while awaiting her sentence. (Baron, 3/1)

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