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Find an updated count of COVID-19 cases in California and by county on our tracker here.
10:37 a.m.: Los Angeles County to loosen even more restrictions
Los Angeles County can reopen even more businesses while expanding how many people are allowed to dine indoors or catch a movie, according to the Associated Press.
The county of 10 million people was one of several that moved into the state’s orange tier, which is the second-least restrictive of California’s four-tier system. County officials have announced that the new rules will kick in on April 5 at 12:01 a.m.
The state will expand vaccine eligibility on Thursday to people 50 and over, though some counties are not waiting. The health director in Contra Costa County said that appointments are now available to people 16 and older.
11:05 a.m.: Number of COVID-19 cases are again on the rise in parts of the country
Both COVID-19 vaccinations and cases are on the rise in the U.S.
More than 410,000 people tested positive for the coronavirus in the U.S. this past week — a 9% increase from the previous week, according to the White House COVID-19 team.
The number of new cases and hospitalizations per day is still much lower than the all-time peak in mid-January. But the current trend in cases is raising concerns that the U.S. could see a fourth surge in infections.
2:56 p.m.: Californians aged 50-64 rush to get vaccine before expansion
Before California throws open its coronavirus vaccine program to all adults on April 15, there will be a two-week window when millions of people between the ages of 50 and 64 can get their shot.
The rollout for this age group, who become eligible on Thursday, has prompted an uptick in appointment requests.
It has also raised concerns about whether two weeks is enough to get to everybody in this age group when there is uncertainty about supply levels as well as lingering questions about accessibility.
Placer County is accepting applications for emergency rental assistance through April 30.
Income-eligible households unable to pay rent and utilities because of COVID-19 are encouraged to start the application process now. The program provides financial assistance to qualifying county renters to prevent housing instability or potential eviction because of COVID-19-related financial hardship.
Those who qualify may receive financial assistance for unpaid rent or utilities dating back to March 2020. Additional assistance for current or future rent or utility bills may also be available. Reapplication is required for households if further financial assistance is needed.
The program pays the landlords and utility providers directly.
“Many residents in Placer County are struggling to catch up with either unpaid rent or utilities,” said Placer County Health and Human Services Deputy Director Amanda Sharp. “This program can help them improve their living circumstances, stabilizing their housing and increase their peace of mind.”
Households interested in applying to the program must have an income at or below 80% of the Area Median Income, ranging from $48,350 to $91,150 depending on household size.
Eligible applicants who have been unemployed for 90 or more days or below 50% of the Area Median Income will get priority.
Applicants also need to prove that they’ve either lost income, been approved for unemployment, have incurred high costs, experienced financial hardship or be at risk of eviction because of the pandemic. The county is encouraging landlords to also promote the program and help tenants apply.
Those interested can apply online or call 211 Placer or 833-342-5211. Once an application has been processed, both the landlord and renter will be notified about the application status and next steps.
Students in California classrooms can sit 3 feet apart instead of 6 under new guidelines adopted by the state as school officials figure out how to reopen campuses closed for a year during the coronavirus pandemic.
The state recommendations announced Saturday came a day after federal health officials relaxed social distancing guidelines for schools nationwide. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises at least 3 feet of space between desks in most schools.
Local leaders will have the final say on distancing. The Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest, said it would stick with the 6-foot rule.
This summer’s Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games will take place without any overseas spectators due to concerns over COVID-19.
Organizers made the decision during a virtual meeting between the various stakeholders today.
The International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee said they fully respect and accept the move
Placer County is one of 13 California counties that have moved Sunday to the red tier of California’s COVID-19 reopening framework, loosening some restrictions.
Under the red tier, restaurants and movie theaters will be able to reopen indoors at 25% capacity, while gyms can reopen indoors at 10% capacity. Museums may also resume indoor operations at 25% capacity.
The counties became eligible to move from the purple tier (“widespread”) to the red tier (“substantial” spread) after the state hit its goal Friday of delivering 2 million COVID-19 doses to communities hit hardest by the pandemic, triggering new thresholds.
State health officials set the 2 million-dose goal last week when they announced California would tie reopening requirements to vaccine equity.
The plan changed the threshold for counties to enter the red tier from seven cases per 100,000 residents to 10 cases once the 2 million doses were delivered.
More counties — including Sacramento, San Joaquin, Sutter and Yuba — could move to the red tier on Wednesday.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he has made mistakes in his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. But he insists the recall effort against him has more to do with politics than the public health crisis.
Newsom made his most direct comments yet about the push to unseat him during an interview with KQED. He said his opponents are taking aim at his broader policy agenda, which tackles issues such as immigration and criminal justice reform.
Newsom conceded that the state could have done a better job communicating to the public as virus restrictions changed. Recall organizers say they have collected enough signatures to force an election.
Coronavirus hospitalizations in California’s most populous county have slipped below 1,000 for the first in four months.
The number of patients with COVID-19 in Los Angeles County hospitals hit 979, the lowest since Nov. 23.
There are 3,250 people hospitalized statewide, a drop of more than 85% since peaking around 22,000 in early January.
Case rates also remain low and much of the state is preparing for some restrictions to be lifted in the coming days.
State officials announced Friday that 13 counties would be eligible to open restaurants, movie theaters, gyms and museums at limited capacity on Sunday.
2:09 p.m.: Does California have ‘one of the lowest COVID-19 death rates’ in the nation? Not exactly.
During Gov. Gavin Newsom’s State of the State address on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium, he had a strong statement about California’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
“California’s death rate has remained one of the lowest per capita in the nation: 134 deaths per 100,000, compared to 158 nationally, 153 in Texas,” he said during his state address.
However, that’s not exactly correct. The governor’s claim is an exaggeration. California does have a slightly better rate than the nation and somewhat better than Texas, but California’s rate is only middle of the pack.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state is 23rd lowest out of 50 states. Some individual counties such as Los Angeles and Imperial continue to have a much higher death rate than the nation’s average.
Newsom made more comments about California’s efforts to stem the virus.
“We were the first to launch mass-vaccination sites in partnership with FEMA,” he said.
This is correct. The Biden administration did partner with California to open the nation’s first two mass-vaccination sites in mid-February — one of which is located at the Oakland Coliseum, and the other at Cal State Los Angeles. A third planned FEMA site for the Central Valley has yet to open.
Newsom also said that the state has “the most robust vaccination program in the country.” When looking at raw numbers, California has administered 11 million doses, more than any other state and most countries.
However, when it comes down to vaccine rollout, California has been one of the slowest states, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracking website.
Butte County has qualified to move from the most stringent purple tier to the less-restrictive red tier of the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan.
Moving into the second-highest tier allows some businesses to reopen at a reduced capacity, and with the latest announcement from Gov. Gavin Newsom, certain youth and adult recreation sports can resume with modification.
The tier change will happen at midnight this Wednesday. For a county to move down to the red tier, there should be a case rate of 4-7 per 100,000 residents with a 5-8% test positivity rate. According to a county press release, the case rate is 7.3 per 100,000 residents, with a 3.6% positive rate. Those limits will change to 10 cases per 100,000 after the state provides 4 million vaccine doses to areas hardest-hit by the virus, based on rules released last week tying reopening to vaccine equity.
While the county might be moving into a less restrictive tier, recently, it was detected that the more contagious coronavirus variant first identified in the U.K. was detected recently in Butte County.
Butte County residents interested in seeing what businesses can now reopen can check out the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. Business owners can also get some industry guidance on the modifications and mitigation measures in place to stop the viral spread.
Residents interested in youth or adult sports can also go online to see the latest guidelines on what outdoor and indoor sports are allowed, along with what safety precautions will be in place.
Counties across California are increasingly asking to opt out of the state’s centralized vaccination program run by Blue Shield.
The Los Angeles Times reports that none of the state’s 58 counties have signed contracts with the insurance giant even as California moves ahead plans to bring 10 counties under Blue Shield oversight beginning this week.
The state is in the process of switching over to a vaccine appointment and delivery system run by Blue Shield, intended to ensure doses are distributed equitably and reach low-income communities.
But some county leaders call the system too bureaucratic and don’t want Blue Shield’s oversight.
The Senate approved President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan on Saturday, according to NPR.
The package secures new aid for American families, workers and businesses, including $1,400 direct payments, an extension of supplemental unemployment benefits and an increase to the child tax credit.
Individuals earning up to $75,000 and couples earning up to $150,000 would receive the full direct payments of $1,400 per person. But those payments would phase out for individuals and couples who make more than $80,000 and $160,000, respectively.
A new national study adds strong evidence that mask mandates can slow the spread of the coronavirus and that allowing dining at restaurants can increase cases and deaths, according to the Associated Press.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the study on Friday. It looked at the counties placed under state-issued mask mandates and at counties that allowed restaurant dining — both indoors and outdoors seating. The agency’s director said the study shows decreases in cases and deaths when people wear masks.
Inversely, it found increases in cases and deaths when in-person restaurant dining is allowed. The study was released just as some states are rescinding mask mandates and restaurant limits.
The research also builds on smaller CDC studies, including one that found that people in 10 states who became infected in July were more likely to have dined at a restaurant. Another found that mask mandates in 10 states were associated with reductions in hospitalizations.
Reopening restaurant dining was not followed by a considerable increase in cases and deaths in the first 40 days after restrictions were lifted. However, soon after, there would be increases of about 1 percentage point in the growth rate of cases, and later 2 to 3 percentage points in the growth rate of deaths.
Sacramento County officials are expanding access to a drive-thru COVID-19 mass vaccination center at McClellan Park.
“We were able to open it last week,” County spokesperson Janna Hayes said. “The first, we limited access to only 65-plus residents. This week, we opened the opportunity to educators and childcare providers as well.”
The site operated by test manufacturing company Curative is open Monday through Friday. Hayes said that the county hopes to vaccinate around 350 people each day.
Older adults and educators working in Sacramento County will now have access to a mass vaccination site, allowing people with an appointment to get vaccinated with the Pfizer shot without leaving their car.
“You get your shot sitting in your car, then you go sit in a 15-minute observation waiting area to make sure you don’t have any immediate adverse reaction to the vaccine,” Hayes said.
Residents interested in the McClellan Park vaccinations, can sign up online here.