California Coronavirus Updates: LA County Health Officials Recommend Fully Vaccinated People Keep Wearing Masks Indoors

Find an updated count of COVID-19 cases in California and by county on our tracker here.

Latest Updates

LA County health officials recommend fully vaccinated people keep wearing masks indoors

The pandemic’s effect on mainstream religions in the U.S.

Disney Cruise delays ‘test sail’ due to inconsistent virus results

Many merchant ship crews still stuck at sea due to pandemic

Pandemic-related rental assistance may have failed in many states

COVID-19 By The Numbers

Tuesday, June 29

3:51 p.m.: LA County health officials recommend fully vaccinated people keep wearing masks indoors

Health officials in Los Angeles County are recommending, but not requiring, that people wear masks indoors in public places, regardless of their vaccination status.

According to the Associated Press, the recommendation in the nation’s most populous county is aimed at preventing the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus.

The county public health department suggests that people wear masks when inside grocery or retail stores, theaters, family entertainment centers, and workplaces when people’s vaccination statuses are unknown.

The county experienced a surge in cases and deaths over the winter. To date, the county has recorded a total of 1.2 million coronavirus cases and more than 24,000 deaths.

3:29 p.m.: The pandemic’s effect on mainstream religions in the U.S.

Churches, synagogues and mosques are returning to normal services as the pandemic recedes, but the looming question is,  how many worshippers will return?

According to the Associated Press, religious leaders fear some of the millions who stayed home from places of worship during the pandemic won’t be coming back, hastening a slide in attendance. Some houses of worship may not make it.

In the U.S. the latest challenge for places of worship comes against a backdrop of a decades-long trend of less of the population identifying as religious. It’s too early to know the full impact of the pandemic on religion, but surveys do show signs of hopefulness and also cause for concern.

About three-quarters of Americans who attended religious services in person at least monthly before the pandemic say they are likely to do so again in the next few weeks, according to an AP-NORC poll. That’s slightly up from the about two-thirds who said in May 2020 that they would attend if allowed to do so. However, 7% said they definitely won’t be attending.

10:17 a.m.: Disney Cruise delays ‘test sail’ due to inconsistent virus results

After a handful of participants had inconsistent COVID-19 test results, the Disney Cruise Line is postponing its first test cruise since the pandemic brought the industry to a standstill, according to the Associated Press.

The Disney Dream had been scheduled to set sail Tuesday from Port Canaveral, Florida with 300 employees onboard who had volunteered for the “simulation” cruise. However, the trip was postponed until next month because a small number of employees had inconsistent COVID-19 test results.

The federal government is starting to allow cruises to sail again, but only if nearly all passengers and crew are vaccinated.

9:54 a.m.: Many merchant ship crews still stuck at sea due to pandemic

More than 15 months into the coronavirus pandemic, tens of thousands of seafarers vital to the global shipping industry remain stranded at sea or in ports, unable to leave their ships or get new assignments due to global travel restrictions.

“They’ve been the forgotten heroes of this pandemic, and they’ve really been collateral damage because it was so easy for countries to say ‘we’ll take nobody into our country,’ except, of course, they wanted the ships to come in and just discharge their cargo,” International Chamber of Shipping Secretary-General Guy Platten said to the Associated Press.

This has been a problem since the start of the pandemic, but the Global Maritime Forum said the situation has worsened recently, primarily due to new travel restrictions countries have imposed in response to the Delta variant.

The forum found that the percentage of stranded seafarers jumped from 5.8% to 7.4% from May to June — and the figures are expected to continue rising.

More than 80% of world trade is transported by sea, meaning seafarers play a critical role in global commerce. It’s estimated that 200,000 crewmembers are either stuck at sea or unable to leave home to get to their ships.

Some have reported being stranded for as long as 20 months, which goes against the International Labor Organization’s Maritime Labour Convention maximum of 11 months.

9:41 a.m.: Pandemic-related rental assistance may have failed in many states

A rental crisis spurred by the pandemic prompted many states to make bold promises to help renters, but most failed to deliver on them after Congress passed the sweeping CARES Act in March 2020.

According to the Associated Press, a handful of states, many led by Republicans, offered little to no help. State leaders set aside at least $2.6 billion from the CARES Act’s Coronavirus Relief Fund in 2020 to prop up struggling renters. But more than $425 million of that — or 16% — never made it to tenants or landlords, according to an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and the Associated Press.

A federal eviction moratorium, which was set to expire June 30, has been extended to July 31, threatening millions with losing their homes. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom extended the state’s moratorium to the end of September. You can find more information on what assistance is available to California renters here.

Monday, June 28

2:43 p.m.: Do I need to worry about COVID-19 variants if I’m vaccinated? Experts say it depends.

If you’re currently vaccinated against COVID-19, you may be wondering if you need to worry about the Delta variant or any others that may crop up.

Experts say that depends on a few things, including your personal risk tolerance.

But first off, having gotten your vaccination is quite valuable. The World Health Organization says COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be protective against the new virus variants.

However, exactly how much the various vaccines protect against the Delta variant is still somewhat of a guessing game. About two weeks after you’re vaccinated, the odds are highly favorable that you won’t get a breakthrough infection. Even if you’re one of the unfortunate few, you likely won’t get a severe case.

“At least for those vaccines approved in Europe and North America, in the case of the variants, these seem to be effective in preventing severe disease, hospitalization and death,” says Dr. Jerome Kim, director-general of the International Vaccine Institute.

One important thing to note is that the Delta variant is about 60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant first discovered in the United Kingdom. Alpha is already 50% more contagious than the original virus form.

The Delta variant is likely what people in the U.S. will be at the highest risk of soon, which is part of the reason the CDC upgraded Delta from a variant of interest to a variant of concern.

An even newer mutation was just discovered in India, “Delta plus,” so experts are saying if it happens to crop up in your area, it’s time to go back to masking up, physical distancing, and getting tested when traveling.

2:25 p.m.: Las Vegas airport saw over 3.5 million passengers in May

More than 3.5 million passengers came through McCarran International Airport in May, an indicator that Las Vegas is inching toward a post-pandemic comeback, according to the Associated Press.

Airport officials on Friday released data from last month showing a significant increase in foot traffic at Las Vegas’ main airport. According to the Clark County Department of Aviation, the total number of travelers was 600,000 more than in April.

However, the 3.5 million travelers in May is still a roughly 23% decrease from the more than 4.5 million seen in May 2019. For the year-to-date, McCarran has seen more than 12 million passengers — a 41% drop from 2019’s 20.7 million travelers.

10:41 a.m.: White House working on vaccinating the ‘movable middle’

Thrown off-stride to reach its July 4 COVID-19 vaccination goal, the Biden administration is sending A-list officials across the country, devising ads for niche markets, and enlisting community organizations to persuade unvaccinated people to get their shots.

According to the Associated Press, the strategy has the trappings of a political campaign, complete with data crunching to identify groups that can be won over — except the message is about public health, not ideology.

The focus is on a group health officials have named the “movable middle” — some 55 million unvaccinated adults seen as persuadable, many of them under 30.

The effort comes as the White House acknowledges it will miss President Joe Biden’s goal of 70% of Americans getting at least one COVID-19 shot by July 4.

9:58 a.m.: States weighing COVID-19 vaccine card checks

As states end their coronavirus restrictions, very few are creating systems to help businesses verify whether customers have been vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Associated Press.

Instead, far more states are actually banning vaccine checks by public entities and, in some cases, prohibiting businesses from denying service to those who aren’t vaccinated. About 18 states led by Republican governors or legislatures prohibit creating so-called vaccine passports or ban public entities from requiring proof of vaccination.

The prohibition doesn’t apply to the demands employers make on their employees. Earlier this month, a federal judge in Texas threw out a lawsuit from 117 Houston hospital employees who challenged a workplace requirement that they get vaccinated.

For now, Hawaii is currently the only state with some form of vaccine passport for travelers. California, Louisiana, and New York have voluntary programs that let people download digital proof of vaccination.

The programs let people download digital proof of vaccination that can be shown on smartphones or printed as QR codes for others to scan. Still, many businesses are hesitant about asking customers for vaccine proof.

9:37 a.m.: End to COVID-19 hotel housing projects nationally causes worry

Tens of thousands of people experiencing homelessness have been staying in hotels across the U.S. paid for by federal programs aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.

But, according to the Associated Press, as hotels re-open to tourists and federal pandemic funding wanes, many face uncertainty as hotel programs end. Many emergency shelters are already full or near capacity, too.

In California, the state’s motel-housing program, Project Roomkey, has also been winding down, but only 20% of recipients have secured permanent housing to enter in after the program sunsets.

While billions of additional federal dollars to secure housing have been approved, experts warn there will likely be a lag.

Saturday, June 26

12:33 p.m.: Some places around the world are back under lockdown 

Some governments have been forced to reimplement lockdown measures to control the spread of the coronavirus as infections increase—including Australia, Israel and Portugal.  

This is in sharp contrast to the U.S. where many places are still reopening despite warnings from officials. 

Read more here. 

Friday, June 25

3:53 p.m.: California to extend evictions moratorium until end of September

California will ban evictions for unpaid rent through the end of September and will use federal money to pay off eligible tenants’ debt, according to the Associated Press.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and state legislative leaders announced the deal on Friday. The agreement extends California’s current eviction moratorium that was scheduled to expire on Wednesday.

To be eligible, tenants must pay at least 25% of what they owe by Sept. 30. They must sign a declaration that they have had economic hardship because of the pandemic, and they must make 80% or less of the area’s median income. Newsom said he will sign the bill into law.

3:15 p.m.: First cruise ship to resume business in US sets sail in Florida

The first cruise ship to board passengers at a U.S. port in 15 months is set to sail Saturday from the industry’s South Florida hub.

According to the Associated Press, the sendoff will mark a symbolic stride toward normalcy for the U.S., where vaccines are curbing the COVID-19 outbreak. For many Americans, the global pandemic first hit home through news of deadly cruise ship outbreaks, with guests quarantined for weeks and ill passengers carried away on stretchers at ports.

But customers booked on the Celebrity Edge’s voyage out of Fort Lauderdale are confident it will be smooth sailing, with at least 95% of those onboard vaccinated. Cruise ship companies are aware the world is watching closely.

3:06 p.m.: Japan speeding up vaccine drive for Olympics

After months of delays due to political and bureaucratic bungling as well as a shortage of vaccines, inoculations in Japan are taking off, according to the Associated Press.

The country’s vaccination drive is now racing down to the wire, especially with the Olympics starting in just one month. Even as more people are getting the shots and fully inoculating the country’s over 36 million older adults now appears achievable, younger people are still largely unvaccinated.

Health experts are worried that the movements of the young and unvaccinated during the Olympics could trigger another resurgence of infections. There’s also worry that the inoculation drive could lose steam because younger people are not keen to get inoculated.

10:03 p.m.: San Francisco to require COVID-19 vaccination for all city workers

San Francisco city workers will be required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus when a vaccine receives full federal approval, according to the Associated Press.

The San Francisco Chronicle says the policy covering 35,000 municipal workers may be the first by any city or county in the U.S.

Employees who refuse to get vaccinated and don’t get a medical or religious exemption could be fired. The three COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the U.S. have emergency authorization by the Food and Drug Administration.

They are expected to receive full approval in several months, after which city employees will then have 10 weeks to get fully vaccinated.

9:49 a.m.: US sends Taiwan 2.5 million vaccine doses, tripling pledge

A plane with 2.5 million doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine has arrived in Taiwan from the U.S. in a donation with both public health and geopolitical meaning.

According to the Associated Press, the China Airlines cargo flight touched down late Sunday afternoon. The donation more than triples an earlier U.S. pledge of 750 million doses for the self-governing island claimed by China.

It signals Washington’s support for Taiwan in the face of growing pressure from China. While Taiwan had been relatively unscathed by the virus, it has recently been caught off-guard by a surge in new cases since May and is now scrambling to get vaccines.

9:46 a.m.: What should I know about the delta COVID-19 variant? Experts say it could be dangerous for unvaccinated/partially vaccinated people.

The delta variant of the coronavirus has been found in more than 80 countries since it was first detected in India and is responsible for 20% of infections in the U.S.

According to the Associated Press, most virus mutations aren’t concerning. Still, there is a worry that some variants might evolve to be more contagious, cause more severe illness or evade the protection of vaccines.

The delta variant spreads more easily, but it’s not clear yet whether it makes people sicker. Fully vaccinated people appear protected from it, though the effectiveness of AstraZeneca and Pfizer’s two-dose shots seems to drop for those only with one dose.

Thursday, June 24

11:47 a.m.: Federal eviction moratorium extended, but the CDC says it’s the last time

The Biden administration has extended the nationwide ban on evictions for a month to help millions of tenants unable to make rent payments during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Associated Press, the administration says it’s expected to be the last time it does so. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky extended the eviction moratorium from June 30 until July 31/.

The administration says a multi-agency campaign will try to prevent a wave of evictions. The Treasury Department encourages states and local governments to streamline the distribution of $47 billion in emergency rental assistance.

The Justice Department is asking state courts to pursue alternatives that would protect tenants and landlords.

11:39 a.m.: Nearly all US COVID-19-related deaths are among the unvaccinated

Nearly all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. are now people who weren’t vaccinated, according to the Associated Press.

This is a staggering demonstration of how effective the vaccines have been — it’s also an indication that daily deaths, now under 300, could be practically zero if everyone eligible got the shots.

New data suggests that fewer than 1% of U.S. deaths from COVID-19 in May were in people who were fully vaccinated.

However, the vaccine remains scarce in much of the world, while the U.S. supply is so abundant that shots sit unused. All U.S. adults have been eligible to get the shots since April 19. Children 12 and older have been eligible for vaccination since the middle of May.

11:18 a.m.: Nevada church settles, other churches press forward with COVID-19 lawsuit

Nevada has agreed to pay $175,000 in legal fees to settle a lawsuit with a rural church over COVID-19 capacity caps on religious gatherings that a U.S. appeals court found illegal in December.

However, according to the Associated Press, a second church in Las Vegas is continuing to press for a court order declaring Gov. Steve Sisolak’s earlier limits unconstitutional. No COVID-19 restrictions have been in place since June 1. The Board of Examiners approved the $175,000 payment to Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley east of Reno earlier this month.

Lawyers for Calvary Chapel Lone Mountain in Las Vegas filed a motion June 11 seeking permission to amend its ongoing complaint.

Wednesday, June 23

5:50 p.m.: Nearly 3,000 Sacramento City students to attend summer school 

Almost 3,000 kindergarten through eighth grade students at the Sacramento City Unified School District will be attending summer school this year — many starting this Monday. That’s almost double the number who attended before the pandemic. 

School district superintendent Jorge Aguilar says the day will include a mix of tutoring and activities. Those will be mostly in person and eight community-based organizations are involved.

“They’re going to be running summer camp-like activities focused on personal development, leadership development, physical activities, and really focused on the social emotional wellbeing, the mental health needs of our students,” he said. 

State COVID-19 relief funds are supporting the expanded summer activities. Education leaders hope the in-person learning will better prepare kids for school next year.

3:21 p.m.: Yolo County expands at-home vaccination program countywide

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine just got easier in Yolo County. Residents who live in Davis, Woodland and surrounding areas can now get their coronavirus shot administered at home or at their workplace; they just need to be 12 years of age or older.

People who are interested in the “call-to-order” inoculation reach the county by dialing (530) 666-8665. A county staffer will come to your location anytime between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m., seven days a week. 

Yolo public health officials started the program earlier this month in areas with lower than average vaccination rates. Now, it’s expanded countywide.

But these residents west of Sacramento will have to jump on the opportunity… The program ends July 2.

Visit the Yolo County COVID-19 vaccine page for more information about ways Yolo County residents can get vaccinated.

3:03 p.m.: Nearly 900 U.S. Secret Service members have tested positive for COVID-19 

Records obtained by a government watchdog show that roughly 900 U.S. Secret Service employees tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Associated Press.

The group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington says that 881 people on the Secret Service payroll were diagnosed with COVID-19 between March 1, 2020, and March 9, 2021. That’s based on Secret Service records received through a Freedom of Information Act request.

It did not include the names or assignments of those who tested positive. However, more than half worked in the special agent division, which is responsible for protecting the president and vice president and the families of these leaders and other government officials.

2:32 p.m.: Tokyo Olympics will have many rules for spectators, athletes and residents

The Tokyo Olympics are shaping up to be a very muted affair — for athletes, fans and citizens who are caught between concerns about the coronavirus on one side and politicians pushing forward on the other.

According to the Associated Press, the International Olympic Committee is pressing ahead despite the pandemic, and Japanese politicians are hoping to save face since the IOC has billions on the line.

While Japan is famous for running on consensus, the decision to proceed with the Olympics has shredded that ideal. Support for going ahead seems to be increasing, but there’s persistent opposition.

Small street protests are planned for Wednesday, marking one month before the Olympic Games’ July 23 opening. Much of the concern stems from health qualms over very little of the population being vaccinated.

“We have been cornered into a situation where we cannot even stop now. We are damned if we do, and damned if we do not,” Kaori Yamaguchi, a member of the Japanese Olympic Committee and bronze medalist in judo in 1988, wrote in a recent editorial published by the Kyodo news agency. “The IOC also seems to think that public opinion in Japan is not important.”

10:49 a.m.: Sacramento Public Library is shelving overdue fines on books by extending their policy

The Sacramento Public Library has decided to extend the policy to eliminate overdue fines on books. Director Rivkah Sass says they put a pause on the fees at the beginning of the pandemic and now they’re extending the policy.

“It’s really welcoming people back, saying ‘Yup we know you have this charge, we know in the old days we would have charged you this, now we’re not doing it,’” Sass said.

Sass says the policy change is also about equity. When fines were in place, people with overdue books and a balance could be barred from using library services.

“We don’t want to create barriers to access. We want people to use all of these amazing resources that we have for them,” said Sass.

Sass says the fines made up just a fraction of the library’s budget. She adds, in recent years many libraries have been reconsidering the financial penalties, including Los Angeles in 2019 and Yolo County earlier this year.

Sacramento’s library goers will still have to pay for lost books.

10:12 a.m.: Some used cars are selling for more than the original sticker price due to pandemic-related issues

High demand and low supply have driven up used vehicle prices so much that many are now selling for more than their original sticker price when they were new.

According to the Associated Press, auto research firm Black Book found 73 models of 1- to 3-year-old vehicles with prices higher than the original sticker, even though they’re used. It’s all because of factory shutdowns last year at the start of the pandemic combined with a worldwide shortage of computer chips forcing auto production cuts.

Black Book Senior Vice President of Data Science Alex Yurchenko says used vehicle prices are up 30% in the past year. He says the high prices will stay until the chip shortage ends, which seems to be unknown at the moment.

Tuesday, June 22

3:21 p.m.: Biden touts one vaccine milestone, but may miss another

President Joe Biden is marking another milestone in his quest to bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control, according to the Associated Press.

Biden announced that 300 million COVID-19 vaccine shots were administered in the 150 days since he took office.

He is crediting scientists, companies, the American people and his whole-of-government effort. The president also noted that 65% of adults have received at least one shot, setting the stage for most Americans to have a relatively normal summer as businesses reopen.

Despite that achievement, Biden is in danger of failing to meet his target goal of 70% of Americans at least partially vaccinated by July Fourth. As of June 22, NPR reports that only 53.4% of the eligible population has been at least partially vaccinated.

3:15 p.m: Polling shows many Americans resuming some pre-pandemic activities

Many Americans seem to be relaxing precautions taken during the COVID-19 pandemic and resume everyday activities, even as some worry that restrictions were hastily lifted.

That’s according to a new poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Majorities of Americans who were regularly doing so before the pandemic are returning to bars or restaurants, traveling and attending live events.

Just 21% are very or extremely worried about a COVID-19 infection in their inner circle, while 25% are highly concerned that lifted restrictions will lead to additional coronavirus infections in their community.

3:09 p.m.: Older adult care COVID-19 rules under fire

Pandemic restrictions are falling away almost everywhere — except inside many of America’s nursing homes, according to the Associated Press.

Rules designed to protect vulnerable older adults from COVID-19 are still being enforced even as infections and deaths across the country fall.

Frustration boils up as families around the country want to spend summer holidays with their loved ones in nursing homes. Some say limited visitions, physical distancing rules and more don’t make much sense during this lull in the pandemic.

Others say these restrictions may be prolonging isolation and accelerating cognitive, emotional and physical decline.

With the virus infecting more than 650,000 long-term-care residents and killing more than 130,000 across the U.S., nursing homes had a duty to take precautions when COVID-19 was out of control, said Nancy Kass, a public health expert at Johns Hopkins University.

But she said she’s baffled by the continued heavy emphasis on safety at the expense of residents’ quality of life given “we’re not in that start of affairs anymore.”

11:56 a.m.: Service industry wage discrepancies causing labor shortage in California restaurants

California restaurants that managed to survive the pandemic are facing a new issue: finding workers.

According to the Associated Press, with the economy officially reopened, owners are eager to fill dining rooms to full capacity but can’t find enough cooks, food servers or kitchen staffers at the wages their offering to do the job.

As a result, restaurants find that they have to cut operating hours or leave tables open. Jot Condie of the California Restaurant Association calls it a “full-blown crisis.”

Restaurant owners and industry insiders blame several factors for the shortage, including extended federal jobless benefits and people moving out of the state during the pandemic.

But some say there’s more to that story. If people are doing better on unemployment benefits, the argument goes, it only means they were unpaid to start with.

“I think we should take what [businesses] say with a grain of salt,” Daniel Costa, an immigration researcher at the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal-leaning think tank told NPR. “Every time you hear ‘I can’t find any workers,’ you should add to the end of that — ‘at the wage I want to pay,’ becaus you’re talking about very low-wage jobs.”

11:32 a.m.: U.S. nursing home deaths up 32% during coronavirus pandemic

A government watchdog says that deaths among Medicare patients in nursing homes soared by 32% last year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Associated Press, the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general found two devastating spikes eight months apart in the most comprehensive look yet at COVID-19’s toll among its most vulnerable victims.

Investigators say there were more than 169,000 additional deaths last year among Medicare recipients in nursing homes.

Also, cases and deaths among Asian patients tracked the more severe impacts seen among Black and Latino people. Asian Medicare enrollees in nursing homes saw the highest increase in death rates from 27% dying in 2020.

11:12 a.m.: Biden trying to get more young adults vaccinated to prepare for Delta COVID-19 variant

The U.S. government is stepping up efforts to get younger Americans vaccinated for COVID-19 amid growing concern about the spread of the new “Delta” variant, according to the Associated Press.

Delta is a looming threat that could derail the country in the months ahead. The variant now represents more than 20% of the latest coronavirus infections in the U.S. in the last two weeks.

Concern is growing since this represents about double what the government last reported on the variant’s prevalence. Dr. Anthony Fauci says the delta variant “is currently the greatest threat in the U.S.” to the attempt to eliminate COVID-19.

Sacramento and Yolo Counties are monitoring the variant.

Monday, June 21

5:27 p.m.: Some Californians could see lower health care costs under federal stimulus provision

Californians who buy health insurance through the state’s Covered California exchange could see their monthly payments go down this summer due to a provision in the most recent federal COVID-19 stimulus.

The American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package designed to help those who suffered economically during the COVID-19 pandemic, ensures that people who sign up through the exchange pay no more than 8.5% of their household income on their health insurance premiums.

In addition, Covered California is using new federal money to offer lower-cost plan options to anyone who received unemployment assistance during 2021. The exchange says monthly payments for that coverage could be as low as $1.

In previous years, some Covered California consumers saw increases in their monthly payments due to a dip in federal investment in state marketplaces. Health policy analysts feared that rising prices would drive people out of the exchange, though California has worked to combat that by creating a requirement that individuals carry insurance.

The premium reductions come in the form of an increased tax credit, according to a summary of the American Rescue Plan from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The department estimates premiums will decrease on average by $50 per person per month and $85 per policy per month, and that four of five enrollees will be able to find a plan for $10 or less per month after tax credits. An estimated 394,000 Californians will become newly eligible for tax credits through the plan, according to the department.

Around 139,000 people have signed up since April 12, bringing California’s total sign-ups to a record high of 1.6 million people, according to Covered California’s numbers. They estimate that at least 141,000 of their current enrollees received unemployment benefits this year and will now be eligible for lower premiums, and say they’re working to inform those people about their new options.

Millions of Californians lost jobs, and likely job-based health insurance, during the pandemic. Those interested in finding out if they’re eligible for less expensive coverage can visit Covered California’s website or call them at (800) 300-1506. The deadline for coverage that begins July 1 is June 30, but special enrollment is open for the rest of the year.

5:22 p.m.: California may extend eviction protections past June

Gov. Gavin Newsom and lawmakers are negotiating whether to extend the state’s ban on evictions for unpaid rent.

According to the Associated Press, Federal and California eviction protections expire on June 30. Newsom has proposed using federal coronavirus aid to pay off all the unpaid rent that people owe.

However, it will take some time to distribute that money. Some tenant advocacy groups want the nation’s most populated state to extend eviction protections until the unemployment rate for low-wage workers reaches pre-pandemic levels. 

In opposition, the California Apartment Association says that landlords don’t want to wait longer because many haven’t received rent checks in more than a year.

11:37 a.m.: For California nurses, the COVID-19 pandemic changed their lives

In early 2020, when the coronavirus began making it difficult for many worldwide to breathe, hospitals became a central front against a disease, eventually killing nearly 4 million people and counting, according to the Associated Press.

At one hospital in Mission Viejo, a team of nurses and doctors were recruited for what became the Isolation Intensive Care Unit. The unit would come to be known as the “Tip of the Spear,” a military term used to describe a group doing dangerous works.

Many of the nurses who spend countless hours with patients, helping them back to health or helping them say goodbye to their families, got tattooed with spears, hash marks, and a heart.

Some speak of forming deep bonds and the joy in helping some deathly sick patients survive, but many cannot forget the horrific, heartbreaking, and traumatic experiences that are very much still with them, even as state cases have dropped.

With little knowledge of how to treat patients amid enormous personal risks, nurses leaped into the abyss, and many will never be the same.

Debbie Wooters, a Mission Viejo ICU nurse, vividly remembers a man who had just retired and made big plans with his wife. They had placed an offer on a house out of state, and they planned to travel.

“Instead of looking forward to a new beginning, we were FaceTiming his wife so he could say goodbye and thank her for the lifetime of memories,” Wooters said.

The ICU unit was isolating, not just for patients but for nurses as well. While keeping people alive was the main job, nurses also needed to comfort patients to keep them motivated or help them in their last moments.

“There were countless patients that we sat with, talked to, and touched, so they knew they weren’t alone dying,” she said. And then there were times they connected patients to families via their phones. “The cries and devastation heard,” she says, “was unbearable.”

To read more about this project, click here.

11:29 a.m.: US hitting encouraging milestones in COVID-19 vaccinations, fewer deaths

The U.S. is reaching a pair of encouraging milestones as the COVID-19 pandemic’s grip on the nation continues to loosen.

According to the Associated Press, COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have dipped below 300 a day for the time since the outbreak’s early days in March 2020.

Meanwhile, nearly 150 million Americans are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, which according to NPR, is about 45.1% of the total U.S. population.

COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2020, behind heart disease and cancer. Now, however, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that more Americans are dying every day from accidents, chronic lower respiratory diseases, strokes or Alzheimer’s disease than COVID-19.

10:21 a.m.: Tokyo Olympics will allow fans to attend but under strict guidelines

A sharply limited number of fans will be allowed to attend the Tokyo Olympics, according to the Associated Press.

The decision announced Monday comes as organizers try to save some of the spirit of the Games where even cheering has been banned. Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity, up to a maximum of 10,000 fans, for each Olympic venue.

All fans must be Japanese residents after spectators from abroad were banned. Officials said that if coronavirus cases rise again, the rules could be changed, and fans could still be barred altogether.

The decision comes as opposition among Japanese residents with hosting the Games in July remains high, though opinions may be softening as new infections in Tokyo have begun to subside.

Sunday, June 20

11:15 a.m.: Nevada is distributing cash prizes to vaccinated residents 

Nevada is distributing $5 million in cash prizes to residents who have been vaccinated in an effort to get more people to get shots. Just don’t call it a lottery.

Gov. Steve Sisolak said Thursday his “Vax Nevada Days” initiative gives skeptics one more reason to get vaccinated. His announcement of what he called a raffle adds Nevada to join a growing list of other states offering incentives to revive flatlining vaccination numbers.

More than half Nevada’s residents 12 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine and almost 43% statewide have completed inoculations.

10:31 a.m.: Sacramento area jobless rate continues to go down 

The Sacramento area jobless rate continues to go down. Numbers out Friday show the unemployment rate in May was 6.3%—down from April’s 6.6%.

Cara Welch, of the state’s Employment Development Department, says unemployment peaked right after the pandemic hit in April of last year when the rate surged to 14.4%.

“The rate has trended downward since April 2020 and then there was an uptick in December and then it remained unchanged in January and then declines now February, March, April and now May,” she said.

Total wage and salary jobs increased by 4,300 between April and May.

Saturday, June 19

10:12 a.m.: California is offering residents a digital record of coronavirus vaccinations 

California has started offering residents a digital record of their coronavirus vaccinations they can use to access businesses or events that require proof they got the shot.

The state’s public health and technology departments said on Friday the new tool will allow Californians to access their record from the state’s immunization registry.

Governor Gavin Newsom insisted several times that the digital record is not a passport. It’ll contain the same information as paper cards issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It comes as California this week lifted many pandemic-related restrictions. Vaccinated people are no longer required to wear masks in most places.

Friday, June 18

10:36 p.m.: Sacramento to allow outdoor dining areas into next year

The city of Sacramento voted to allow outdoor dining in parking lots and streets for another year, meaning that tables on sidewalks and street-side parklets could stick around for a while.

There are no longer capacity limits on restaurants in California, but the pandemic is not over. And the city of Sacramento wants to keep allowing restaurants to set up outdoor tables, tents, parklets and sidewalk cafes to curb the spread of the virus and any new variants. 

The city’s new plan is to temporarily extend parklets and outdoor dining in parking spaces until June of next year. A city report says 122 businesses are participating in the program. 

City staff also says it wants to create a permanent program for outdoor dining. And this means the large tents and street closures in Midtown districts like R Street and Lavender Heights could become permanent fixtures.

9:12 a.m.: Newsom announces Six Flags ticket giveaway to encourage vaccinations

Following California’s grand re-opening Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled this week a new vaccine initiative with free tickets to Six Flags Magic Mountain. 

Fifty-thousand Californians could win tickets to one of the four Six Flags magic mountain theme parks as part of Newsom’s “vax for the win” program. The governor hopes it could lead to an economic boost in the state’s tourism and entertainment sector.

“We took a sledgehammer to the entertainment industry in the last year because of the stay-at-home order, no one’s naive,” Newsom said.

Eligible ticket winners must get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from a healthcare provider participating in the vaccine initiative. As of now, only half of the state’s population have gotten their first dose.

6:05 a.m.: Sacramento, Yolo counties monitoring Delta variant

The Delta variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has been detected in both Sacramento and Yolo counties, public health officials say. 

This form of the virus is considered a “variant of concern” by the Centers for Disease Control and local public health agencies because it can spread more quickly than other strains. It was initially found in India. 

The CDC says, to date, existing vaccines work against the circulating variants of the virus, but that they’re “continuing to study” them. 

Sacramento County officials say they have identified a total of 20 cases of the Delta variant as of June 17, and that variant cases are more common among younger people. 

Although Jamie White, program manager at the Sacramento County Department of Public Health says the Delta variant is “something that we’re watching closely,” she also says it’s just one of several other variants that are going around locally.   

“We’re seeing more of the Epsilon and Alpha variants, which are also variants of concern,” White said. 

In Yolo County, 14 cases of the Delta variant have been found by the UC Davis Genome Center, which collected samples from UC Davis and Davis-area residents.  

Dr. Aimee Sisson, health officer for the county, wrote in a statement that the variant was first detected in April. The department says the COVID-19 positivity rate is very low in Davis; the testing initiative called Healthy Davis Together shows only nine COVID-19 cases over the past week.

Thursday, June 17

5:34 p.m.: Californians receiving unemployment benefits will once again need to prove they’re looking for work

Californians receiving unemployment benefits will once again have to swear they are actively looking for work in order to qualify. 

Beginning July 11, unemployment benefits will be contingent on filers certifying to the state Employment Development Department that they’ve made at least two attempts each week to find work. 

The federal law requiring unemployment recipients to certify they are applying and interviewing for jobs was waived in March of last year, when the pandemic and stay-at-home orders made it difficult to conduct normal job searches.   

Since then, the EDD has processed more than 20 million unemployment claims and paid out more than $128 billion in benefits, largely on the honor system.

4:06 p.m.: Some Black church leaders work to provide COVID-19 resources

Members of Black communities across the U.S. have disproportionately fallen sick or died from the coronavirus, so some church leaders are using their influence and trusted reputations to fight back. 

According to the Associated Press, aside from holding church services, they’re phoning people to encourage vaccinations and hosting testing clinics and pop-up vaccination events in church buildings.

Some groups want to extend their efforts beyond the fight again COVID-19 and provide health care services for other ailments. Choose Healthy Life, a national initiative involving Black clergy, United Way of New York City, and others, have been awarded a $9.9 million U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant to expand vaccinations and provide screening and other health services in churches.

4:01 p.m.: Can you mix and match COVID-19 vaccines? Experts say it’s safe, but more studies are needed.

Experts say mixing and matching different two-dose COVID-19 vaccines is likely safe and effective, but more data is needed to be sure, according to the Associated Press.

COVID-19 shots are all designed to stimulate your immune system to produce virus-fighting antibodies, though the way they do so varies. 

To check if mixing doses would be OK, scientists are testing combinations of various two-dose COVID-19 vaccines. Limited data so far suggests an AstraZeneca shot followed by a Pfizer shot is safe and effective, but it comes with an elevated likelihood of side effects.

Scientists think that may be because mixing and matching vaccines can sometimes produce a more robust immune response, which means a stronger side effect response.

3:53 p.m.: Number of unemployment claims rise again after a pandemic low

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week for the first time since April despite widespread evidence that the economy and the job market are rebounding.

According to the Associated Press, jobless claims rose from 37,000 from the week before. However, as the job market has strengthened, the number of weekly applications for unemployment aid has fallen for most of the year. 

The weekly number of jobless claims generally reflects the pace of layoffs. With vaccinations up, more consumers are venturing out to spend their cash — on restaurant meals, airline fares, movie tickets, and store purchases — the economy seems to be rapidly recovering from the recession.

10:14 a.m.: US to spend more than $3 billion for COVID-19 antiviral pills

The U.S. is devoting more than $3 billion to advance the development of antiviral pills for COVID-19 and other dangerous viruses that could turn into pandemics.

According to the Associated Press, the pills would be used to minimize symptoms after infection. They are currently in development and could begin arriving by year’s end, pending the completion of clinical trials.

Fauci said the new program would invest in “accelerating things that are already in progress” for COVID-19 and would work to innovate new therapies for other viruses. Health experts, including Fauci, have called for simpler pill-based drugs that patients could take themselves. While some drugmakers are testing such medications, initial results aren’t expected for several more months.

Under former President Donald Trump, the U.S. poured more than $19 billion in rapidly developing multiple vaccines — but less than half that amount went toward developing new treatments.

That shortfall has become increasingly concerning as the vaccination campaign slows, and experts emphasize the need to manage the disease in millions of Americans who may never get inoculated.

9:56 a.m.: With COVID-19 deaths topping 600,000, some seek a 9/11-style commission

A push is underway on Capitol Hill and beyond for a full-blown investigation of the coronavirus outbreak by a national commission like the one that looked into 9/11.

According to the Associated Press, the proposal comes amid lingering questions over the government’s response to the crisis and origin of the virus that has killed more than 600,000 Americans.

A bill introduced by Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine would establish such a mission.

Given that most of the disaster unfolded on former President Donald Trump’s watch, many worry that politics will get in the way of any inquiry, as happened when Republicans came out against a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters.

The inquiry could look at:

  • The origins of the virus
  • Early warnings and other communication with foreign governments
  • Coordination among federal, state and local agencies
  • The availability of medical supplies
  • Testing and public health surveillance
  • Vaccination development and distribution
  • The uneven effect on minorities
  • Government relief policies

“The death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic is more than 200 times that of the 9/11 attacks — but Congress has yet to establish a similar blue-ribbon commission to investigate the vulnerabilities of our public health system and issue guidance for how we as a nation can better protect the American people from future pandemics,” Menendez and Collins wrote in a New York Times essay this week.

9:41 a.m.: Japan eases virus restrictions ahead of Tokyo Olympics

Japan has announced the easing of a coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo and six other areas as the country begins final preparations for the Olympics starting in just over a month, according to the Associated Press.

Since last March, the country has been struggling to slow a wave of infections propelled by more contagious variants, with new daily cases soaring above 7,000 at one point. Seriously ill patients also strained hospitals in Tokyo, Osaka and other metropolitan areas.

Daily cases have since subsided significantly, paving the way for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to downgrade the state of emergency when it expires on Sunday to less stringent measures.

They will last until July 11 — just 12 days before the start of the Games.

Wednesday, June 16

3:51 p.m.: Some Sacramento businesses to keep mask guidelines in place 

Ross Rojek says there’s good reason to keep the face-covering rule in his downtown Sacramento bookstore, even though California no longer requires it. 

He wants to protect the kids who aren’t old enough to be vaccinated.  

“We even have parents who bring their child out for their very first outing after birth to a bookstore,” said Rojek, who co-owns Capital Books on K Street.  

He says it’s easier to hang a sign telling customers to keep their masks on, rather than ask each individual if they’ve been inoculated against COVID-19 to determine if they can peruse in the store with their face uncovered.   

“I don’t know if we can trust everyone to be truthful on their vaccine status, and we also don’t want to become the vaccine card police,” he said. 

Rojek is not the only Sacramento business that’s keeping the face covering rule for the time being.

A coalition of Sacramento area museums also says it’s keeping the mask rule for all visitors to protect kids and vulnerable adults until there’s better herd immunity. 

“The vaccination rates still in Sacramento County aren’t quite where we’d like to see them,” says Amanda Meeker, executive director of the California Museum.

“We feel that it’s really best to really promote the safety of our visitors, we have a lot of families who come with kids and we have an onsite summer camp,” she said, adding that it will reassess its mask policy later this summer.  

The Crocker Art Museum, the Sacramento Children’s Museum, and several other local museums are also keeping the mask rule. 

Rojek says the store’s mask policy could change with pandemic developments; if the COVID-19 vaccination is authorized for six-year-olds, for example, or if the vaccination rate surpasses 85% in Sacramento County

“It’s one of those things where we’ll keep watching the news and adjust it.”

2:31 p.m.: Large study finds Novavax COVID-19 shots 90% effective

Vaccine maker Novavax says its shot is highly effective against COVID-19 and also protects against variants, according to the Associated Press.

On Monday, the Maryland-based company announced results from a large, late-stage study in the U.S. and Mexico that found its vaccine was about 90% effective. Preliminary data also showed it was safe.

Novavax previously released results from smaller studies in Britain and South Africa. Now, the company plans to get emergency use authorization in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere by the end of September.

The vaccine is made by growing harmless copies of the coronavirus spike protein in the laboratory.

2:19 p.m.: Vaccine efforts slog as new infectious variant starts to spread in US

As case numbers decline and states reopen, the potential final stage in the U.S. campaign to battle COVID-19 is turning into a slog.

According to the Associated Press, a worrisome variant is gaining a bigger foothold in the country. Even tactics like lotteries and offering other prizes are starting to fail at persuading more Americans to get vaccinated.

“The last half, the last mile, the last quarter-mile always requires more effort,” Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday.

One major concern is the highly contagious and potentially more severe “delta” variant of the coronavirus strain that originated in India. While health officials say our vaccines are effective against it, the fear is that it will lead to outbreaks in states with lower vaccination rates.

The delta variant has increased from 2.7% of all cases in May to 9.7% this month, the CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.

At the same time, states are convening focus groups to better understand who is declining to get vaccinated, why and how to convince them that getting the shot is the right thing to do.

“It’s a race between the vaccines going into people and the current or future variants,” said Kansas Health Secretary Dr. Lee Norman.

11:19 a.m.: California’s reopening is met with cheers, caution

California’s grand reopening after 15 months of coronavirus restrictions has been met with exuberance, but also caution, according to the Associated Press.

On Tuesday, the state ended its color-coded restriction system and allowed restaurants, gyms and other businesses to lift capacity limits and distancing rules. While many businesses are ending their mask requirements for fully vaccinated patrons, some are still planning to keep masks and plastic panels for at least a bit longer.

Gov. Gavin Newsom called the day a milestone and urged residents to “give people hugs.” However, there are still millions of unvaccinated residents, and COVID-19 is not yet eradicated.

Do you have questions about what guidelines and rules changed in the state yesterday? CapRadio has a breakdown of what’s changed and what hasn’t.

11:10 a.m.: Extra COVID-19 shots may help those with organ transplants

A small study offers a hint that an extra dose of COVID-19 vaccines just might give some organ transplant recipients a needed boost in protection, according to the Associated Press.

The vaccines offer strong protection to most people, but it’s not clear how well they work in transplant recipients and other people with weak immune systems.

Researchers tested 30 transplant patients who, on their own, sought a third dose. It didn’t help everybody — but a third of those who appeared to have no protection after two shots developed virus-fighting antibodies with the extra dose.

The research was published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

9:29 a.m.: Some hospital workers pushing back against vaccine job requirements

While some employees at Houston Methodist Hospital are steadfast in their belief that their employer shouldn’t require them to get the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s a losing legal argument, according to the Associated Press.

A federal judge bluntly ruled over the weekend that if the hospital’s employees don’t want to get vaccinated, they can get a job elsewhere.

Legal experts say such vaccine requirements, particularly in a public health crisis, will probably continue to be upheld in court as long as employers provide reasonable exemptions, including for medical conditions or religious objections.

Other hospital systems around the country, including Washington D.C., Indiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York, have tried to fight back but have also faced pushback.

The ruling in the closely watched legal case over how far health care institutions can go to protect patients and others against the coronavirus is believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S.. Still, it probably won’t be the end of the debate.

The Houston Methodist employees likened their situation to medical experiments performed on unwilling victims in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. The judge called that comparison “reprehensible” and said claims made in the lawsuit that the vaccines are experimental and dangerous are false.

Houston Methodist’s decision in April made it the first major U.S. health care system to require COVID-19 shots for workers. Many hospitals around the country, including Houston Methodist, already require other types of vaccines, including for the flu.

Tuesday, June 15

5:25 p.m.: Newsom celebrates lifted restrictions, draws $1.5 million vaccine lottery winners

Gov. Gavin Newsom marked what he called California’s “full reopening” at Universal Studios Hollywood, backed by a busy entrance to the theme park and costumed movie characters including Transformers’ Optimus Prime, Trolls, and the yellow minions from “Despicable Me.”

“California is open again,” he said as music played and confetti burst from on-stage cannons. “California has turned the page. Let us all celebrate this remarkable milestone.”

Starting Tuesday, most businesses can welcome customers back at full capacity and fully vaccinated individuals can remove their masks in most public settings

The governor — who will face a recall election later this year — also used the backdrop to hold  the state’s big-money vaccine drawing.

Ten vaccinated Californians from Sacramento, Stanislaus, Los Angeles, Marin, Ventura, Santa Barbara and Riverside counties will get $1.5 million each.

Republicans hoping to replace the governor in a recall election criticized California’s long standing pandemic restrictions, which they say have hurt businesses. 

“California’s reopening is too little, too late,” GOP candidate John Cox said in a statement. “The state is reopening weeks after other states, devastating Californians. Many small businesses will never reopen, millions are still unemployed, many students lost an entire year of school.” 

Newsom acknowledged the pandemic isn’t over, though he said with more than half of eligible Californians now fully vaccinated, he doesn’t foresee any reason to reimpose restrictions.

“We’re monitoring things in real time,” he said. “But at this moment, we’re confident on the basis of the vaccination rates that we’ve seen.”

4:01 p.m.: California offering chance at ‘dream vacations’ to push residents to get vaccinated

As California reopens today, the state has yet one more incentive for unvaccinated people to get their COVID-19 vaccinations — “dream vacations.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom made the offer on Monday after awarding $15 million in cash prizes to residents entered in the “Vax For The Win” campaign.

The effort is also intended to jump-start California’s travel and tourism industry. CEO and President of Visit California Caroline Beteta thinks this idea could get travel back on residents’ minds.

“In order for us to shorten the recovery curve and get this economy back on track, and create all these fabulous jobs in California, we also are trying to encourage Californians to choose California as a destination of choice,” Beteta said.

She says California tourism has been in virtual hibernation for more than a year because of stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions.

“Just in the last year, $1 billion of California tourism spending went to Mexico and over $10 billion went to western states and beyond. So by just people simply choosing California, they’re helping out their everyday fellow neighbors,” she said.

During the height of the pandemic, California lost nearly half the 1.2 million jobs in its hospitality and tourism industries. As a result, Gov. Newsom is proposing $95 million to help the state’s tourism economy.

3:49 p.m.: While state drops masking guidelines, masks are still required at airports

While vaccinated Californians are allowed to go maskless, airports have their own rule — keep your mask on if you’re traveling through an airport or flying.

“As far as the airport is concerned, unfortunately, nothing is really going to change for us on the 15th,” said Scott Johnston, a Public Information Officer with Sacramento International Airport.

Since the Transportation Security Administration is a federal body, they can enact masking regulations that may differ from state rules. TSA can also fine someone $250 for a first maskless offense and $1,500 for repeat offenses.

“Masks are still required here on airport property,” Johnston said. “The airlines are still requiring [them]. To get through TSA, you also have to have a mask. Basically, when you enter airport property, you’re required to wear a mask.”

3:31 p.m.: As COVID-19 infections slow down, vaccine-hesitant areas still at risk

New COVID-19 cases are declining across most of the country, even in some states with vaccine-hesitant populations. But almost all states bucking that trend have lower-than-average vaccination rates, according to the Associated Press.

Case totals nationally have declined in a week from a seven-day average of nearly 21,000 on May 29 to around 14,000 on Saturday. Experts said some states are seeing increased immunity because there were high rates of natural spread of the disease.

However, Dr. Leana Wen, a public health professor at George Washington University, is concerned that the natural immunity of those who have been exposed to the coronavirus may soon wane.

“Just because we’re lucky in June doesn’t mean we’ll continue to be lucky come the late fall and winter,” said Wen. “We could well have variants here that are more transmissible, more virulent, and those who do not have immunity or have waning immunity could be susceptible once again.”

10:16 a.m.: US COVID-19 death toll reaches 600,000, equal to yearly cancer death toll

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 has topped 600,000, even as the vaccination drive has slashed daily cases and deaths to the point that it’s allowed the country to reemerge from the gloom, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The Associated Press reports that the number of lives lost is greater than the total population of Baltimore or Milwaukee and that it’s about equal to the number of Americans who died from cancer in 2019.

The milestone came the same day that California lifted most of its remaining restrictions and ushered in what’s been billed as its “Grand Opening” just in time for summer. Gone are state rules on social distancing and limits on capacity at restaurants, bars, supermarkets, gyms, stadiums, and other places. Even Disneyland is throwing open its gates to all tourists after allowing just California residents.

The most recent deaths are seen in some ways as especially tragic now that the vaccine has become available practically for the asking.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50% of Americans have had at least one dose of vaccine, while over 40% are fully vaccinated.

But demand for shots in the U.S. has dropped off dramatically, leaving many places with a surplus of doses and casting doubt on whether the country will meet Biden’s target of having 70% of American adults at least partially vaccinated by July 4. The figure stands at just under 65%.

10:05 a.m.: White House to host July 4 ‘independence from virus’ celebration

President Joe Biden wants to imbue Independence Day with a new meaning this year by encouraging nationwide celebrations to mark the country’s effective return to normalcy after 16 months of coronavirus pandemic disruption.

According to the Associated Press, the White House is expressing growing certainty that July Fourth will serve as a breakthrough moment in the nation’s recovery.

The White House says the National Mall in Washington will host the traditional fireworks ceremony. It’s encouraging other communities to hold festivities as well. Tuesday’s announcement comes even as the U.S. is set to cross the grim milestone of 600,000 deaths from the virus.

9:55 a.m.: Evidence suggests COVID-19 was in the US by Christmas 2019

A new analysis of blood samples from 24,000 Americans taken early last year is the latest and most extensive study to suggest that the new coronavirus popped up in the U.S. in December 2019 — weeks before cases were first recognized by health officials.

According to the Associated Press, the analysis is not definitive, and some experts remain skeptical.

Still, federal health officials are increasingly accepting a timeline in which small numbers of COVID-19 infections may have occurred in the U.S. before the world ever became aware of a dangerous new virus erupting in China.

The study was published Tuesday online by the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Monday, June 14

6:29 p.m: Newsom to sign executive order on whether vaccinated workers will have to wear masks

Governor Gavin Newsom says he will sign an executive order ending the question of whether vaccinated workers will have to wear masks.

“If they adopt the guidelines they published Friday, the answer is no and we’ll codify that with an executive order to make that clear on the 17th,” he said. 

A spokesperson for Newsom’s office says the Cal/OSHA draft order represents the latest science and guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control. Without the governor’s executive order, it would be 10 days before it could take effect.

11:19 a.m.: California shop owners pleading for customers as state reopens

While California is just a day away from reopening its economy, business owners who have struggled in the past year are still facing an uncertain future, according to the Associated Press.

Merchants and restaurateurs on Los Angeles’ oldest street say they’re hopeful that the reopening will bring a recovery, but they’re hurting.

Martha Medina, who owns the largest shop on Olvera Street, says she doesn’t expect to return to normal but to a “semi-normal” way of life. Medina’s shop selling Mexican folk art and clothing has cut back to being open five days instead of daily. The state is due to lift restrictions Tuesday after tamping down the virus.

11:16 a.m.: Flying rebounds as airports count 2 million travelers

The airline industry’s recovery from the pandemic passed a milestone as more than 2 million people streamed through U.S. airport security checkpoints on Friday for the first time since early March 2020.

According to the Associated Press, the Transportation Security Administration Announced Saturday that 2.03 million travelers were screened at airport security checkpoints on Friday.

Airline bookings have been picking up since around February, as more Americans were vaccinated against COVID-19 and — at least within the U.S. — travel restrictions such as mandatory quarantines began to ease.

10:54 a.m.: As US COVID-19 death toll nears 600,000, racial gaps still glaring

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 is approaching 600,000 with the virus taking advantage of inequalities across the county, according to the Associated Press.

Government health officials say Native Americans, Latinos, and Black people are two to three times more likely than white people to die of COVID-19. An Associated Press analysis finds that Latinos are dying at much younger ages than other groups.

The Watsonville family of Jerry Ramos, a Mexican American restaurant worker, watched as he succumbed to COVID-19 at the age of 32. As he lay dying, he lamented about his 3-year-old daughter: “I have to be here to watch my princess grow up.”

Ramos didn’t live to see it. He died on Feb. 15, becoming one of the nearly 600,000 Americans who perished due to the virus. He is also another tragic example of the outbreak’s strikingly uneven and ever-shifting toll on the nation’s underserved racial and ethnic groups.

In the first wave of fatalities, in April 2020, Black people were hit the hardest, dying at rates higher than those of other ethnic or racial groups. The virus ran through the urban Northeast and hit heavily African American cities like Detroit and New Orleans.

Last summer, during a second surge, Hispanic people were hit the hardest, suffering an outsize share of deaths, driven by infections in Texas and Florida. By winter, during the third and most lethal stage, the virus had gripped the entire nation, and racial gaps in weekly death rates had narrowed so much that white people were the worst off, followed closely by Hispanic people.

Now, even as the outbreak ebbs and more people get vaccinated, a racial gap appears to be emerging again, with Black Americans dying at higher rates than other groups.

Sunday, June 13

1:38 p.m.: People might not need to wear masks in public places starting June 15—but where and when depends  

When California reopens on June 15, masks will still be required on public transportation, transportation hubs, indoors in K-12 schools and youth settings, healthcare settings, correctional facilities, detention centers and shelters. 

Masks will also still be required for unvaccinated people in indoor public settings and businesses.

And all workers will also continue to need to wear masks when working indoors or working outdoors when they are less than six feet from another person, and when required by the CDPH or their local health department. 

Read more here. 

Saturday, June 12

10:50 a.m.: Mondavi Center in Davis to reopen its doors in mid-October 

One of the Sacramento region’s premier music and arts venues is getting ready to welcome audiences back after closing because of COVID restrictions. The Mondavi Center in Davis will reopen its doors in mid-October.

Ticket sales for the 2021-22 season began this week. Don Roth, the Mondavi’s executive director, says this past Monday was their best first-day of ticket sales in about four years. 

“Clearly people are ready to be back and we’re ready to be back,” he said. “It’ll be 19 months by the time we open, since the last time we put on a show.” 

He says they’ve been busy getting the venue ready to reopen.

“Fortunately we have a fantastic filtration system that doesn’t recycle the air, you’re always getting fresh air,” he said. “And we had just put in this amazing Meyer sound system for amplified concerts and then we shut down, so it’ll be brand new when we open.”

Some of the artists featured in the upcoming season include Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Ballet Folklórico de México, and jazz singer Veronica Swift.

Friday, June 11

5:48 p.m.: Newsom signs order to lift most COVID-19 restrictions on June 15

California Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted certain executive actions Friday tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they won’t go into effect until the economy reopens June 15. 

Newsom is ending the executive actions that imposed a stay-at-home order and the colored tier system for counties. That means no more purple, red, or orange distinctions, reopening the economies in all counties.

The governor is also lifting the guidance that discouraged non-essential travel. Masks will no longer be needed in most settings. CDC guidance will still require them on planes and public transportation.

Newsom’s emergency authority, however, will remain in effect, which gives him expanded powers as governor. Republican lawmakers have criticized the decision.

3:35 p.m.: Two Sacramento County residents picked in California vaccine lottery

Maybe it was because Sacramento Kings mascot Slamson brought luck when he pulled the winning numbers. Or perhaps it was just regular old serendipity. Either way, one Sacramento County resident is going to become $50,000 richer after their randomized number was chosen in the second round of California’s vaccine lottery.

With Gov. Gavin Newsom playing game show host yet again, the state pulled another 15 numbers on Friday of people who won $50,000 because they were vaccinated against COVID-19. 

The winners came from Los Angeles, Santa Clara, Fresno, Alameda, San Francisco, San Mateo, Kern, San Diego, Riverside, Orange and Monterey counties. The pool included 22 million vaccinated California residents.

Another person from Sacramento County also won $50,000 today after the state failed to connect with one of the 15 winners from the previous drawing. 

Officials have said they will try to reach the winners through multiple methods of communications, including email, text and phone calls.

The state will select 10 grand prize winners next Tuesday, who will each receive $1.5 million. California residents who get vaccinated before June 15 are automatically entered. Winners can choose to remain anonymous and still get their prize money.

3:33 p.m.: Newsom pledges consistent workplace mask guidelines

Gov. Gavin Newsom says he’s confident his workplace regulators will soon fall in line with California’s plan to drop virtually all masking requirements for people vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

According to the Associated Press, Cal/OSHA is set to consider revising its conflicting rules Thursday, two days after the state eases its pandemic restrictions. Newsom said on Friday that he expects to make sure the worksite regulations take effect along with planned reopening.

Businesses have been baffled by the shifting rules over who needs to wear masks and where once the nation’s largest state fully reopens from the pandemic.

3:22 p.m.: California debates public health spending as virus danger recedes

California public health departments are asking for an unprecedented infusion of cash following the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Associated Press.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget proposal didn’t include ongoing annual funding for public health departments, however. Instead, the state Legislature included more than $400 million of annual funding for public health in its proposal. 

It’s just one of several areas Newsom and lawmakers must reconcile before approving a spending plan by June 30. Some public health departments said they were not prepared for the pandemic, and they’re asking for money to hire more people to have a broader coordinated response to the next public health crisis.

11:17 a.m.: US vaccine surplus growing larger as expiration dates draw closer

The U.S. is confronted with an ever-growing surplus of COVID-19 vaccines, looming expiration dates and stubbornly lagging demand at a time when the developing world is clamoring for doses to stem a rise in infections.

According to the Associated Press, million-dollar prizes, free beer and marijuana, raffled-off hunting rifles and countless other giveaways around the country have failed to significantly move the need on vaccine hesitancy, raising the specter of new outbreaks.

The stockpiles are becoming more daunting each week, with states halting new orders and giving millions of doses back to the federal government. The nation seems likely to fall short of President Joe Biden’s goal of dispensing at least one shot to 70% of the nation’s adults by July 4.

9:26 a.m.: Regulators releasing J&J doses, but many to be tossed

U.S. regulators are allowing the release of about 10 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine from a troubled Baltimore factor, according to the Associated Press.

But many other doses that originated there can’t be used and must be thrown out. The Food and Drug Administration announced that it had determined that two batches from the plant could be released. The plant, owned by Emergent BioSolutions, has been shuttered for weeks.

The agency wouldn’t specify why those batches can’t be used, but a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press that it was due to possible contamination. The person wasn’t authorized to release details about the decision and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The FDA’s decision means that the two batches from the Bayview factory can be used in the U.S. or exported to other countries. These are also the first J&J vaccines from Bayview approved for use.

The agency said the vaccines are “critically needed,” given the current public health emergency. It also said it made the decision after reviewing records and the results of the manufacturer’s quality testing.

Thursday, June 10

3:51 p.m.: Cost of the Gov. Gavin Newsom recall election? An estimated $215 million.

It will cost California counties an estimated $215 million to stage an expected recall election that could oust Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom from office less than a year before the 2022 elections. 

According to the Associated Press, the preliminary projection from the state Finance Department comes about a month after a coalition of county officials urged the Legislature to provide funding to cover the recall election costs — warning that they could strain local budgets already weakened by the coronavirus pandemic. 

The figures were provided by counties that estimated what it would cost for everything from printing ballots to providing face masks and gloves for election workers. An election date has not been set.

3:41 p.m.: Ex-Ayran Brotherhood leader charged with pandemic-related unemployment fraud

A one-time top member of the notorious Aryan Brotherhood who claimed to have turned his life around after 45 years in prison is now charged with defrauding Northern Californians out of nearly $400,000 in unemployment benefits, according to the Associated Press.

The Sacramento Bee says Michael Thompson was arrested Monday in Lake County. He and a co-defendant are accused of bilking at least 16 people last year as the state Employment Development Department was distributing money to those whose jobs were affected by business closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prosecutors said that Thompson and his co-conspirator Eric Hutchins would convince the victims to provide information, allowing them to apply for unemployment money from the state in their names. They then inflated the victims’ income to receive the maximum amount. 

They defrauded mainly people who are homeless or transient people living off Social Security or disability payments by pretending to counsel them. California has said EDD payouts to fraudsters have cost the state about $11 billion.

10:53 a.m.: Regulators withdraw controversial mask regulation

California’s workplace regulators have withdrawn a controversial mask regulation, according to the Associated Press.

Their second such reversal in a week gives them time to consider a rule that more closely aligns with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s promise that the state will fully reopen from the pandemic on Tuesday. But some business leaders on Wednesday kept up their pressure on Newsom to override the board.

The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board’s rule would have allowed workers to forego masks only if every employee in a room is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. That contrasts with the state’s broader plan to do away with virtually all masking requirements for vaccinated people.

10:38 a.m.: Why do some people get side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine? Experts say it’s your immune system working as planned.

Temporary side effects after COVID-19 vaccines are normal and a sign your immune system is revving up, according to the Associated Press.

Your immune system has two main parts, and the first kicks in as soon as the body detects a foreign intruder by promoting the inflammation that can cause chills, fatigue, and other common side effects.

But since everyone reacts differently, it doesn’t mean the shot didn’t work if you don’t feel anything within a day or two. The rapid-response step of your immune system tends to wane with age, one reason younger people report side effects more often than older adults. Also, some vaccines simply elicit more reactions than others.

“The day after getting these vaccines, I wouldn’t plan anything that was strenuous physical activity,” said Dr. Peter Marks, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine chief, who experienced fatigue after his first dose.

The shots also set in motion the other part of your immune system, which will provide the real protection from the virus by producing antibodies.

People also occasionally have serious allergic reactions. That’s why you’re asked to stick around for about 15 minutes after getting any type of COVID-19 vaccine — to ensure any reaction can be promptly treated.

9:13 a.m.: Millions of Americans struggle to find friends they can trust

Millions of Americans are struggling through life with few people they can trust for personal and professional help. This disconnect raises a barrier to recovery from the coronavirus pandemic’s social, emotional, and economic fallout.

That’s according to a poll from The Impact Genome Project and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The survey finds 18% of U.S. adults, or about 46 million people, say they have just one person or nobody they can trust for help in their personal lives, such as emergency child care needs or a ride to the airport. And 28% say they have just one person or nobody they can trust to help draft a resume, connect to an employer or navigate workplace challenges.

The isolation is more acute among Black and Hispanic Americans. Thirty-eight percent of Black adults and 35% of Hispanic adults said they had only one or no trusted person to help navigate their work lives, compared with 26% of white adults. In their personal lives, 30% of Hispanic adults and 25% of Black adults said they have one or no trusted people, while 14% of white adults said the same.

Americans were more likely to report a decline than an increase in the number of people they could trust over the past year. Just 6% of Americans said their network of trusted people grew, compared with 16% who reported that it shrank.

While most Americans said the number of people they could trust stayed the same, nearly 3 in 10 said they asked for less support from family and friends because of COVID-19.

Wednesday, June 9

6:25 p.m.: California will align with CDC mask guidelines upon reopening June 15

California is reopening next Tuesday, and we finally have some additional clarity on what that means for mask use. 

After a full month of dueling guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state’s health department, California will align with the CDC on June 15.

“Fully vaccinated people can resume everyday activities without wearing a mask except in a few limited settings that are required by federal and now state rules,” said Chief Health Officer Doctor Mark Ghaly. “Individuals who are not fully vaccinated must continue to wear masks in indoor public settings.”

The “limited settings” requiring masks regardless of vaccination status include healthcare and correctional facilities, public transportation, homeless and emergency shelters, cooling centers and indoors at schools.

Around 15% of California’s population is children under 12, who are not currently eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Meanwhile, workplace guidance will continue to be provided by Cal/OSHA. The agency is meeting to discuss those rules Wednesday night.

3:30 p.m.: Nevada man accused of stealing blank vaccine cards in Los Angeles County

Prosecutors say a Nevada man has been charged with stealing more than 500 blank vaccine cards from a COVID-19 vaccination center in Los Angeles County.

According to the Associated Press, the 45-year-old Las Vegas resident was a contract worker at the Pomona Fairplex site when the theft occurred in April. He now faces one felony count of grand theft, and it’s not immediately known if the Las Vegas resident has an attorney.

“Selling fraudulent and stolen vaccine cards is illegal, immoral and puts the public at risk of exposure to a deadly virus,” Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement.

Prosecutors estimate the stolen cards may be worth about $15 per card if illegally sold. The defendant is scheduled to be arraigned on Aug. 25.

3:27 p.m.: The US is investigating COVID-19 origins

Once dismissed by most public health experts and government officials, the hypothesis that COVID-19 leaked from a Chinese lab is now receiving scrutiny under a new U.S. investigation.

According to the Associated Press, experts say a 90-day review ordered by President Joe Biden will push American intelligence agencies to collect more information and review what they already have.

Former State Department officials under former President Donald Trump have publically pushed for the investigation.

However, many scientists, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, still say they believe the virus most likely occurred in nature and jumped from animals to humans.

3:18 p.m.: Pandemic may have exacerbated obesity, other risk factors

Health officials have warned since early on in the pandemic that obesity and related conditions such as diabetes were risk factors for severe COVID-19, according to the Associated Press.

It was another reminder of the health issues that often come with obesity and how difficult sustained weight loss can be. Even faced with such risks, it’s not clear how many people were motivated to get healthier during the pandemic.

Some benefited from having greater control over what they ate and more time to exercise, while others moved less and ate more. The changes underscore how a person’s environment can affect their health and weight, experts say.

11:37 a.m.: California Republican lawmakers are wondering when Gov. Gavin Newsom will end state of emergency

Three Republican lawmakers are asking Gov. Gavin Newsom to explain his decision to keep a COVID-19 emergency declaration in place past June 15. That’s the date many of California’s pandemic restrictions are set to end, despite Newsom saying the state of emergency would continue.

Among the GOP lawmakers wanting answers is Assemblymember Kevin Kiley of Rocklin. Kiley has previously sued the governor for overstepping executive authorities during the pandemic.

Newsom won an appeal, but Kiley said he would take it to the California Supreme Court later this month.

“‘State of emergency’ is a legal term that says there is A, conditions of extreme peril, and B, that these conditions are of such a magnitude that they’re beyond the ability of any local jurisdiction to control,” Kiley said.

California has the second-lowest coronavirus transmission rate in the nation, according to the CDC.

11:26 a.m.: US to buy 500 million Pfizer vaccines to distribute globally

The U.S. will buy 500 million more doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to share through the COVAX alliance for donation to 92 lower-income countries and the African Union over the next year.

According to the Associated Press, President Joe Biden was set to make the announcement Thursday in a speech before the start of the Group of Seven summit. The news was confirmed to the Associated Press by a person familiar with the matter, who spoke on a condition of anonymity ahead of the president’s announcement.

The person says 200 million doses would be shared this year, with the balance to be donated in the first half of 2022.

11:06 p.m.: US deaths for heart disease, diabetes rose during COVID-19 pandemic

The U.S. saw tragically remarkable increases in the death rates for heart disease, diabetes and other common killers last year, according to the Associated Press.

Experts believe the main reason may be that many people who suffered dangerous symptoms made the lethal mistake of staying away from the hospital for fear of catching the coronavirus.

The death rates — posted online this week by federal health authorities — add to the growing body of evidence that the number of lives lost directly or indirectly to the coronavirus in the U.S. is far greater than the officially reported COVID-19 death toll of nearly 600,000 in 2020-21.

For months now, researchers have known that 2020 was the deadliest year in U.S. history, primarily because of COVID-19. But the data released this week showed the biggest increases in the death rates for heart disease and diabetes in at least 20 years.

“I would probably use the word ‘alarming,’” said Dr. Tannaz Moin, a diabetes expert at UCLA, said of the trends.

Tuesday, June 8

3:10 p.m.: California’s low-income essential workers are feeling unheard in state reopening

While California may be set to reopen in a week, many of the state’s low-income essential workers feel concerned about their safety.

Even though restaurants, grocery stores and other essential low-wage workers have worked through the pandemic, regardless of the state’s reopening status, many are now concerned about the confusing reopening guidelines.

Across the state, broad reopening guidelines are causing anxiety — especially as only about half of the state’s population is currently vaccinated.

United Food and Commercial Workers Union in Northern California President Jacques Loveall says that many grocery store workers his organization represents are concerned about the shifting mask mandates.

“Our members are seeing hundreds of people a day where most people don’t see anywhere near that number of people,” Loveall said. “So the possibility for exposure are still there, so they are concerned and I think legitimately concerned.”

Loveall says about 70% of grocery store workers in the union have been vaccinated. While shoppers can go maskless in most cases after June 15, many employees will still have to cover their faces while at work.

2:26 p.m.: US unlikely to reach Biden’s July 4 vaccination goal

For months, President Joe Biden has laid out goal after goal for taming the coronavirus pandemic and then exceeded his own benchmarks.

Now, according to the Associated Press, the U.S. is on pace to fall short of Biden’s aim to have 70% of Americans at least partially vaccinated by July 4. As of June 7, only 51.6% of the nation’s population had received at least one vaccine dose. The White House has launched a month-long blitz to combat vaccine hesitancy and a lack of urgency to get shots, particularly in the South and Midwest.

However, it’s increasingly likely that the population will still miss the president’s vaccination target. The administration insists that even if the goal isn’t reached, it will have little effect on the overall U.S.

2:15 p.m.: Sacramento County man tied to pandemic-related unemployment fraud arrested again

Prosecutors say what started as a gun bust has led investigators to uncover $600,000 in pandemic-related fraud from California’s unemployment agency, according to the Associated Press.

Adrian Sykes was arrested on Monday for the second time in the case, this time in Las Vegas. He was initially arrested in February after Sacramento County prosecutors say a traffic stop and search of his house found six guns and six unemployment agency debit cards.

Prosecutors allege Sykes and his girlfriend filed 35 fraudulent claims and obtained more than $600,000 using personal identifying information from victims nationwide. Sacramento County prosecutors say they don’t know if either has an attorney.

10:21 a.m.: Pfizer to start vaccine testing in children under 12

Pfizer says it’s expanding testing of its COVID-19 vaccine in children younger than 12, according to the Associated Press.

After a first-step study in a small number of children 5- to 11-year-old to test different doses, Pfizer is ready to enroll about 4,500 young volunteers at more than 90 sites in the U.S., Finland, Poland, and Spain.

The vaccine made by American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech is already authorized for emergency use in anyone 12 and older in the U.S. and the European Union.

Enrollment of 5- to 11-year-olds began this week. Those youngsters will receive two vaccine doses of 10 micrograms each — a third of the teen and adult dose — or dummy shots. Enrollment of children as young as 6 months will start in a few weeks using an even lower dose, 3 micrograms per shot.

9:52 a.m.: Coronavirus pandemic prolonged foster care stays for children

An Associated Press analysis shows that thousands of families’ reunifications have been delayed nationwide as the pandemic snarls the foster care system.

Courts have delayed cases, gone virtual or temporarily shut down, leading to a backlog. Services such as visitation, therapy and drug testing that parents need to get their kids back also have been limited.

The AP found at least 8,700 fewer reunifications during the first nine months of the pandemic, compared with the same period the year before. Adoptions slowed to a trickle. Overall, tens of thousands fewer children left foster care compared with 2019.

Monday, June 7

5:43 p.m.: Gov. Gavin Newsom unlikely to lift worker mask restriction

California Gov. Gavin Newsom appears disinclined to insert himself into the regulatory process for workplaces.

According to the Associated Press, Newsom spoke on Friday after Cal/OSHA, the  state safety board, upset business groups by approving new rules a day earlier. They require all workers to wear masks unless every employee around them is vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The rules run counter to Newsom’s plan to fully reopen California in less than two weeks and allow vaccinated people to skip face coverings in nearly all situations. Critics hadn’t decided if they will push Newsom to override the worksite rules adopted by Cal/OSHA.

5:35 p.m.: Las Vegas to hold first convention since pandemic hit

Las Vegas is hosting its first big trade show since the start of the pandemic this week, according to the Associated Press.

The four-day World of Concrete trade show is set to begin Monday at the Las Vegas Convention Center, which recently completed a new $1 billion exhibition hall. Some are embracing it as a sign of a reopening state.

Observers like U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that people will be eying the trade show as a test run for resuming large conventions and meetings.

The World of Concrete typically has 60,000 masonry professionals in attendance. Dow says having even half of the attendance in 2019 would be a success.

5:24 p.m.: Do I need to get tested for COVID-19 if I’m vaccinated? Scientists say most fully vaccinated people can skip testing.

U.S. health officials say people who are fully vaccinated can skip routine COVID-19 testing, with some exceptions, according to the Associated Press.

Because the approved vaccines are so effective at blocking COVID-19, vaccinated people face little risk of getting sick or spreading the virus. As a result, U.S. officials recently updated their guidance to recommend against routine screening in most cases, including workplace settings.

An exception is if you develop COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, cough and fatigue. Health care workers and people in prisons and homeless shelters should also continue to follow testing guidelines specific to those places.

12:11 p.m.: When do COVID-19 vaccine doses expire? About six months, depending on storage.

How soon vaccines expire is a critical question as the Biden administration prepares to send tens of millions of unused COVID-19 doses abroad to help curb the pandemic.

According to the Associated Press, many drugs and vaccines can last for years if stored properly, but all can eventually lose their effectiveness, much like how food can degrade in a pantry. Like many perishable items, COVID-19 vaccines remain stable longer at lower temperatures.

In recent days, some state officials have said that some unused doses may expire by the end of the month, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that looming expiration dates were a factor as the administration works to get doses sent out as quickly as possible.

However, expiration dates for vaccines are determined based on data the manufacturer submits to regulators proving how long the shots stay at the right strength, said former Food and Drug Administration vaccine chief Norman Baylor.

It’s called a “potency assay,” and it can vary by vaccine. Some vaccines, such as tetanus shots, typically last two years if properly stored.

The vaccines authorized in the U.S., made by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, can last for up to about six months from the time of manufacture, depending on how they’re stored.

11:50 a.m.: Jails emptied last year due to the pandemic. Advocates are now asking if we should be going back to cramped jails.

In the middle of last year, the number of people in U.S. jails was at its lowest point in more than two decades.

According to the Associated Press, a new report published by the Vera Institute of Justice collected population numbers from about half of the nation’s 3,300 jails to make national estimates. The report was then shared with The Marshall Project and the Associated Press.

The number of people incarcerated in county jails across the country declined by roughly one-quarter, or 185,000, as counties aggressively worked to release people held on low-level charges, dramatically reduced arrest rates and suspended court operations to halt the spread of COVID-19.

But in many places, the decrease didn’t last too long. From mid-2020 to March 2021, the number of people in jails waiting for trial or serving short sentences for minor offenses climbed back up again by more than 70,000, reaching nearly 650,000.

“Reducing the incarcerated population across the country is possible,” said Jacob Kang-Brown, a Vera Institute of Justice Senior Research Associate and author of the report. “We saw decreases in big cities, small cities, rural counties, but the increase we see is troubling.”

The pandemic underscored what reform advocates have been saying for years — cramped and filthy jails are the wrong place for most people who have been arrested. The pandemic forced a rapid departure from the status quo and became something of a proof of concept for alternatives to incarceration.

“The pandemic has given prosecutors the chance to implement practices that have been discussed and floated for years now,” said Alisa Heydari, a former Manhattan prosecutor who is deputy director for the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Sunday, June 6

11:55 a.m.: New kind of COVID-19 vaccine could be available this summer

A “protein subunit vaccine,” likely from the biotech company Novavax, could be available as soon as this summer. It works differentially from the current batch of vaccines and doesn’t require refrigeration. 

It contains the spike protein itself (no need to make it) as well as an adjuvant that enhances the immune system’s response—making the vaccine even more protective.

The technology has been well understood. There are already vaccines made this way for hepatitis B and pertussis.

Read more here. 

Saturday, June 5

1:55 p.m.: Sacramento sees some of the country’s biggest construction job growth 

Sacramento is seeing some of the country’s biggest construction job growth.

“Construction was deemed essential throughout the pandemic,” said Peter Tateishi, head of the Associated General Contractors of California. “It didn’t really slow down, it continued to push forward.”

A new study by the group finds  the Sacramento area added nearly 6,000 new construction jobs from February to April. That puts Sacramento among the top five cities in the country for construction employment. A lot of those jobs are in office and commercial construction downtown.

“Throughout 2020 you also saw a number of people moving out of other areas of California, including the Bay Area, into the Sacramento market,” Tateishi said. “So we’ve seen a lot of investment into the residential side of construction.”

The report finds Sacramento’s overall construction employment is at nearly 76,000  jobs—the highest level since 2005. 

Friday, June 4

3:50 p.m.: California’s population decline may be affected by the pandemic, report shows

For the first time in California history, the state’s population is going down.

Researchers from the Public Policy Institute of California say it’s a combination of a few factors:

  • Fewer people are moving into the state.
  • More people are moving away.
  • Birth rates have dropped.

During the pandemic, birth rates did go down, but the PPIC thinks it may also be just part of a longer-term trend.

Women in their twenties are having fewer children, largely because they’ve been living with their parents for longer, due in part to high housing costs.

The PPIC’s new report found that between 2007 and 2020, birth rates in California fell faster than birth rates nationwide, which also fell.

The report’s authors say in the past, drips in the birth rate have been countered by people immigrating into the state, but that’s not the case anymore.

3:33 p.m.: Gov. Newsom announces first batch of winners for $50,000 vaccine prize

California Gov. Gavin Newsom took a turn as gameshow host as the state drew the first 15 winners of $50,000 prizes for getting vaccinated against the coronavirus.

According to the Associated Press, Newsom and two others drew the winners from a lottery machine on Friday. It’s the first in a series of drawings, culminating in 10 grand prizes of $1.5 million each on June 15. That’s the day when the state expects to drop almost all coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses and gatherings.

The state plans to award over $116 million in cash prizes and gift cards, all in an effort to get more Californians vaccinated.

The drawings are based on unique numeric identifiers that connect to the names of the winners. Each ball represents a $50,000 check that individuals can receive after they’ve gotten their second shot, but there are some stipulations.

The state will contact winners and give them 96 hours to claim their prizes. Friday’s winners came from Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Santa Clara, San Francisco, Alameda, San Luis Obispo and Mendocino counties.

3:24 p.m.: California won’t lift state of emergency on June 15

Gov. Gavin Newsom says he will not lift the coronavirus state of emergency on June 15, according to the Associated Press.

But he still intends to lift most mask and other restrictions on that date. Newsom said Friday he will keep in place the emergency order that gives him broad authority to issue, alter or suspend state laws and regulations.

Newsom said he is not taking the summer months off from the threat posed by the coronavirus. Republicans in the state Senate have tried repeatedly to pass a concurrent resolution to end the state of emergency, but Democrats in the majority have blocked their efforts.

9:54 a.m.: California workers could soon skip masks if all in a room are vaccinated

California employees will soon be able to skip masks in the workplace, but only if every employee in the room is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

According to the Associated Press, the revised rules adopted Thursday night by a sharply divided California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board are expected to go into effect June 15. That’s the same day the state more broadly loosens requirements in social settings to match recent federal recommendations.

Members made clear that the regulations are only temporary while they consider further easing pandemic rules. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office says he’s hopeful the board will follow the science and further amend its rules.

9:45 a.m: Experts say COVID-19 pandemic slowed battle against HIV/AIDS

Some researchers believe COVID-19 has derailed the fight against HIV and set back a U.S. campaign to decimate the AIDS epidemic by 2030, according to the Associated Press.

Saturday marks the 40th anniversary of the first report that brought AIDS to the public. The battle against HIV — the virus that causes AIDS — had been going well until recently. Two years ago, U.S. officials set goals to all but eliminate new HIV cases in about a decade.

But now, experts believe the U.S. may see its first increase in infections in years. They blame less testing and prevention during the COVID-19 pandemic. Internationally, recent strides could also be undone for similar reasons.

9:26 a.m.: US employers add 559K jobs, still struggles to find workers

U.S. employers added a modest 559,000 jobs in May, an improvement from April’s sluggish gain.

However, according to the Associated Press, there’s still evidence that many companies are struggling to find enough workers even as the economy rapidly recovers from the pandemic recession.

Last month’s job gain was about April’s revised total of 278,000. The unemployment rate fell to 5.8% from 6.1%. The rebound speed from the pandemic recession has caught employers off guard and touched off a scramble to hire.

The reopening of the economy, fueled by substantial federal aid and rising vaccinations, has released pent-up demand among consumers to dine out, travel, shop, attend public events, and visit friends and relatives.

Thursday, June 3

3:48 p.m.: California gives ok to continue sales of to-go liquor

There’s one pandemic change that Californians are sure to toast: the to-go cocktail.

According to the Associated Press, Gov. Gavin Newsom says the state will allow restaurants to continue selling takeout alcohol and keep expanded outdoor dining through the end of the year.

Restaurants turned to takeout and outdoor seating during the last year as coronavirus restrictions limited indoor service. The state department of Alcoholic Beverage Control relaxed regulations to allow them to keep selling alcohol, which can be a big moneymaker.

The state is set to drop all capacity limits on businesses, indoor and outdoor, on June 15.

3:39 p.m.: Traffic deaths rose during pandemic

The government’s highway safety agency says U.S. traffic deaths rose 7% last year, according to the Associated Press.

That’s the most considerable increase in 13 years, even after people drove fewer miles due to the coronavirus pandemic. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration blamed the increase on drivers taking more risks on sparsely traveled roads by speeding, failing to wear seat belts, or driving while impaired with drugs or alcohol

On Thursday, the agency released preliminary numbers showing that 38,680 people died in traffic crashes last year. The increase came even though the number of miles traveled by vehicle fell 13% from 2019.

10:31 a.m.: Cal/OSHA to vote for mask and social distancing guidelines today

The California agency in charge of workplace health and safety will vote Thursday on whether to ease face masks and social distancing guidelines in certain workplaces.

The proposal drafted by Cal/OSHA’s Standards Board says employers who don’t work with the public can ease restrictions if they receive documentation that all employees have been vaccinated.

Stanford University infectious diseases expert Dr. Erin Mordacai thinks the proposal is a reasonable idea.

“We have pretty good evidence at this point that the vaccines do a really good job at protecting against infection, which means both that the vaccinated person is unlikely to get infected and get sick, but they’re also unlikely to infect and transmit to others,” Mordecai said.

The proposal also says public workplaces like restaurants will likely continue requiring California employees to mask up even after the state reopening on June 15.

10:16 a.m.: As Sacramento County moves to orange tier, the parks department plans events

This week, Sacramento County moved into the less-restrictive orange tier of the state’s reopening plan, and this means more people could be headed outdoors, ramping up structured-recreational opportunities.

Sacramento’s Youth, Parks, and Community Enrichment Director Mario Lara says the city is prepared to serve people that are ready to reengage with activities.

“So we’re planning a host of summer activities both indoors and outdoors at our community centers, as well as some outdoor summer camp activities,” Lara said. “And we’re anticipating that folks will want to be outdoors within our parks, neighborhood parks and community parks.”

While some activities were eliminated because of COVID-19, the open spaces offered by the city’s parks department remained a sanctuary for many during the pandemic.

10:08 a.m.: US will boost vaccine-sharing around the world

The White House says the U.S. will share more COVID-19 vaccines with the world, including directing 75% of excess doses through the UN-backed COVAX global program.

According to the Associated Press, the White House has previously stated its intent to share 80 million vaccine doses with the world by the end of June. The administration says 25% of doses will be kept in reserve for emergencies and for the U.S. to share directly with allies and partners.

The long-awaited vaccine-sharing plan comes as demand for shots in the U.S. has dropped significantly. More than 63% of U.S. adults have received at least one dose, and global inequities in supply have also become more glaring.

Wednesday, June 2

5:28 p.m.: EDD continuing to answer fewer and fewer calls 

California’s embattled Employment Development Department is taking more heat after a San Francisco Chronicle report revealed that the Employment Development Department answered fewer callers every week of May than in March. 

This news comes despite promises of new hires and better practices. California Rep. Josh Harder says it’s unacceptable.

“We’ve heard again and again from folks at EDD over the last few months, all the work that they’ve done to get new systems, to hire new people, and what we’ve seen today is — it’s not working,” Harder said.

He points out that part of the problem rests with the federal government, which has promised $2 billion in assistance to agencies like the EDD. However, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh has not yet committed to a timeline for releasing those funds.

5:18 p.m.: COVID-19 shot may not need yearly booster shots

The world’s leading COVID-19 vaccines may offer lasting protection that diminishes the need for frequent booster shots, according to the Associated Press.

Scientists are finding clues in how the body remembers viruses, but they say more research is needed, especially since viral mutations are still a wild card.

Pfizer and Moderna have fueled booster questions by estimating that people might need yearly shots, just like the flu vaccine. 

The companies plan to have some candidates ready this fall, but companies won’t decide when boosters get used. That’s up to health authorities in each country. Some experts say boosters may be needed only every few years.

10:01 a.m.: Tokyo Olympics still ‘a go’ despite coronavirus concerns

Will the Tokyo Olympics open despite rising opposition related to the pandemic? The answer is almost certainly “yes.”

According to the Associated Press, that “yes” is largely tied to billions of dollars at stake for the International Olympic Committee.

The Switzerland-based IOC controls the terms of the games in a contract with Japanese organizers, and only it has the right to cancel the games.

Japan has spent at least $15.4 billion to organize the Olympics and will want to save face and have the Tokyo Games open on July 23. Medical authorities in Japan have largely opposed the Olympics, but financial and political considerations have overshadowed concerns.

9:41 a.m.: Sacramento, San Joaquin counties move into orange tier before June 15 reopening

Sacramento and San Joaquin counties are finally moving to the orange tier of California’s color-coded reopening system, allowing some businesses to loosen restrictions just two weeks before the state fully reopens and removes most COVID-19 restrictions.

Sacramento has been in the red tier since March 16, while San Joaquin has been since April 6. Nevada and Solano counties are also moving down from red to orange. No counties are left in the most restrictive purple tier.

In the less-restrictive orange tier, restaurants and movie theaters can increase indoor capacity to 50%, and gyms rise to 25%. Bars can also reopen outdoors with modifications. There are also capacity restriction modifications for indoor and outdoor events if all attendees are vaccinated or have a recent negative COVID-19 test.

All of these changes will take effect immediately in Sacramento County, according to an updated public health order.

9:22 a.m.: Free beer and more for the US’s ‘vaccine sprint’

Free beer is the latest White House-backed incentive to persuade Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

According to the Associated Press, President Joe Biden is expected to announce a “month of action” on Wednesday to get more shots into arms before the July 4 holiday.

Biden is updating the nation on his plans to get 70% of adults at least partially vaccinated by Independence Day. That’s key to his goal of reopening the country by this summer. The latest hop-infused incentive to get vaccinated, provided by Anheuser-Busch, builds on others like cash giveaways, sports tickets and paid leave to keep up the pace of Americans getting shots.

Tuesday, June 1

3:52 p.m.: ‘Zoom Boom’ continues, even as some head back into offices

Zoom is still booming, raising prospects that the video conferencing service will be able to sustain its pandemic-fueled momentum.

According to the Associated Press, the San Jose-headquartered corporation has seen some signs for optimism in its latest quarterly earnings report. Zoom’s stock had slumped recently as the easing pandemic lessens the need for virtual meetings, but the stock still rose 3% in extended trading after the quarterly numbers came out.

Both Zoom’s revenue and profit for the February-April quarter surpassed analyst projections. However, on the downside, Zoom added its lowest number of large-business subscribers since before the start of the pandemic.

3:38 p.m.: Mobile clinics to vaccinate people in small towns in Nevada, other states

Doctors and nurses are staffing mobile clinics throughout the U.S. to ensure people in tiny towns and rural areas can get vaccinated, according to the Associated Press.

In states such as Nevada, Arizona, Kentucky and others, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has dispatched the mobile units to places that lack pharmacies, clinics and other vaccination sites.

In Nevada, volunteer doctors and nurses have teamed up with the National Guard to deliver thousands of shots to communities that state officials say couldn’t offer vaccinations any other way.

In a town located on Fallon Paiute-Shoshone land and 60 miles east of Reno, the state has set up FEMA mobile vaccination units to ensure residents in 28 locations across the state can get inoculated.

This is just one of Nevada health officials’ many tactics to counter waning interest in vaccinations. A Las Vegas strip club has even set up a pop-up vaccination site.

However, state health officials acknowledge they’re unlikely to hit their initial goal of vaccinating 75% of the population believed necessary to reach herd immunity.

3:26 p.m.: Japan’s vaccine push ahead of Olympics may be too late

It’s sinking in that Japan’s scramble to catch up on a frustratingly slow vaccination drive less than two months before the Summer Olympics start may be too little, too late, according to the Associated Press.

Instead, an expert warns that the Olympics risks becoming an incubator for a “Tokyo variant,” as tens of thousands of athletes, officials, sponsors, and journalists descend on and potentially mix with a largely unvaccinated Japanese population.

With infections in Tokyo and other heavily populated areas at high levels and hospitals already under strain, experts are worried about the very little slack left in the system.

Even if the country succeeds in meeting its goal of fully vaccinating older adults by the end of July, much of the population would not be inoculated. Plus, some experts believe even that goal is overly optimistic.

12:25 p.m.: California travel to campgrounds, beaches, surge

Many Californians found themselves heading to campgrounds, beaches and restaurants over the latest holiday weekend.

According to the Associated Press, as the state prepares to shed some of its coronavirus rules, Southern California beaches have been busy with families barbecuing and children playing in the sand and surf.

Many business owners say they’ve been scrambling to hire workers to keep up with the customer demand since virus cases have fallen, and vaccinations have risen. The surge in travel and recreation comes as California prepares to relax social distancing and masking rules on June 15 if coronavirus cases remain low.

Newly reported infections in the state have fallen below 1,000 some days. The positivity rate has also been 1%.

12:19 p.m.: US figures out how to fairly share vaccine overstock globally

It’s been five weeks since the Biden administration announced plans to share millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses with the world by the end of June, according to the Associated Press.

Nations around the globe are still waiting with growing impatience to learn where the vaccines will go. President Joe Biden must decide what share of doses goes where and how many of those shares should be reserved for U.S. partners.

So far, it looks like the administration will provide the bulk of the doses to COVAX, the U.N.-backed global vaccine sharing program. The administration is also considering reserving about a fourth of the doses for the U.S. to dispense directly to individual nations of its choice.

12:06 p.m.: Nursing homes across country still struggling with COVID-19 infection rates

Nursing homes in the U.S. are still reporting scattered COVID-19 outbreaks and COVID-associated deaths, albeit at much smaller rates than during the height of the pandemic.

According to the Associated Press, due to the outbreaks and deaths, many facilities are following federal and state recommendations to pause visitors, causing disappointment and frustration among family members who hoped to visit their families again once fully vaccinated.

Most often, staff are the ones who get infected. Outbreaks have also been linked to new, unvaccinated nursing home residents.

Federal data show there were 472 nursing home deaths in the first two weeks of May, down from 10,675 in the first two weeks of January 2021.

Find older coronavirus updates on our previous blog page here.

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