Tuesday, April 13, 2021

CDC, FDA Call For States To ‘Pause’ J&J Vaccinations: As the Food and Drug Administration investigates very rare reports of blood clots in six people who had the Johnson & Johnson covid-19 vaccine, federal health agencies are recommending that states halt its usage. As of publication, California officials have not responded to the federal request, reports The Sacramento Bee, while Sacramento County announced that it is switching vaccine types. Get more coverage from the Los Angeles Times, Stat, AP and CNBC.

Covered California Reopens Exchange, Expands Premium Aid: California reopened enrollment on coveredca.gov through the end of the year, hoping more people will buy coverage. Increased federal assistance to the states is part of the latest stimulus legislation — in California that funding could lower monthly premiums by hundreds of dollars or more in some cases. Get more details from AP, CalMatters, The San Diego Union-Tribune, ABC10 and KRCR.

The Los Angeles Times also reports on the federal relief bill’s impact on COBRA.

Limits Now Lifted On Places Of Worship: As of Monday, the state removed all restrictions on indoor  attendance of religious services in response to a series of Supreme Court decisions. California’s Department of Public Health still “strongly” advises limiting numbers to 25% of a building’s capacity for the two-highest levels of the state’s four-tier covid-19 restrictions. Read more coverage from APLos Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle.

For more national health news, read today’s KHN’s Morning Briefing.

Below, check out the roundup of California coverage.

Los Angeles Times:
Are Herd Immunity And The California Coronavirus Variant Preventing A West Coast Spring Surge?

California had one of the lowest average daily coronavirus case rates in the nation over the most recent seven-day period, while Michigan’s case rate — the worst in the nation — was 12 times higher than California’s, placing growing strain on hospitals there. One factor that may be helping California — for reasons not fully understood — is the presence of the California variant. The California variant here might be helping to keep a lid on the U.K. variant, which is believed to be more transmissible than the conventional strains of the coronavirus and likely results in more severe illness and, as a result, a greater chance of death. (Lin II, 4/12)

Fresno Bee:
Death Rates Among CA Latino Immigrants Soar In COVID Pandemic 

The COVID-19 pandemic was even deadlier for working-age Latino immigrants than previously known, according to a recent University of Southern California study. Latino immigrants, between the ages of 20 and 54, are nearly 11.6 times more likely to die from the virus than U.S.-born people who are not Latino, according to the study. The figure “astonished” the study’s lead author Erika Garcia, an assistant professor of preventative medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at USC. (Bojórquez, 4/13)

Bay Area News Group:
How The Decline In COVID-19 Testing Could Blind California To New Problems

As new and more contagious variants of the COVID-19 virus emerge in California at a troubling rate, testing for the pathogen has plummeted, challenging the state’s effort to trace their spread, discover outbreaks or detect whether they are eluding our vaccines. Rates of testing have fallen by more than 60% since January’s peak, according to the most recent data by the California Department of Public Health. Statewide, a total of 186,112 tests were reported on March 31, down from 477,718 on Jan. 4. The precipitous decline is reflected in Bay Area data, as well, falling about 40% in Santa Cruz County, 30% in Santa Clara, Contra Costa and Alameda counties and 25% in San Mateo County over the past three months. Testing is also down nationally. (Krieger, 4/12)

Orange County Register:
Orange County To Close Two Large COVID-19 Testing Sites April 30

With at-home options and more neighborhood-based locations available, Orange County officials announced Monday they will be closing two large regional COVID-19 testing sites at month’s end. The “super sites” at the Anaheim Convention Center and OC Fair & Event Center will be closed down on April 30. “When COVID-19 testing was first developed more than one year ago, availability was limited and many residents had to wait to experience symptoms before qualifying,” Dr. Clayton Chau, director of the OC Health Care Agency and the county’s health officer, said in a statement. “We have a robust network in place today that makes no-cost testing easily accessible.” (Ritchie and McCrea, 4/12)

Fox 40:
While Yolo County Stops Coronavirus Testing Altogether, Health Officials Say It’s Still As Important As Ever

There is a growing concern that fewer and fewer people are getting tested for the coronavirus as more vaccines are distributed. California health officials say 60% fewer tests are being taken now versus at the peak of the surge in December and January. The disparity was not as great in Sacramento, with 34% fewer tests given last week than during the peak. In Yolo County, vaccinations have ramped up and the County Health Department stopped testing altogether last week. (Wong, 4/12)

Bay Area News Group:
Bay Area Restaurateurs Sue California And Counties To Recover Permit Fees Charged Amid COVID-19

Restaurants in a handful of greater Bay Area counties have filed class-action lawsuits seeking refunds for liquor license and health permit fees assessed by the state and counties even though they were forced to shutter completely or operate at significantly lower capacity under COVID-19 public health orders. Restaurant owners in Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Monterey and Sonoma in recent days have joined those across much of the state, including San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles, that filed similar lawsuits against the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and the counties in which they operate. (Angst, 4/12)

The Daily Breeze:
LA County Coronavirus Case Rates Dip Below Levels Of One Year Ago 

Los Angeles County continued to report exceptionally low levels of coronavirus infections Monday, April 12, now far below what the county was reporting a year ago — shortly after the first stay-at-home order was enacted. Average daily cases are now around 400, while this time a year ago the county was reporting more than 1,000 cases per day in what would become the first surge of the virus, which crested in July. For L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, in an uncharacteristic show of emotion, displayed more than measured optimism on Monday as the county hopes to once and for all turn the page on the coronavirus pandemic. (Rosenfeld, 4/12)

Fresno Bee:
Fresno County Hits Grim Milestones For COVID Cases, Amid Vaccine Acceleration

Almost 300 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Fresno County since Friday, pushing the county to a total of more than 100,000 people who have been infected with the virus since March last year. As the milestone loomed late last week, Dr. Rais Vohra described it as an unfortunate achievement for Fresno County. Ninety-two cases reported on Saturday represented the point at which the county crossed the threshold with 100,027 cases. That was followed by the confirmation of 108 cases on Sunday and 95 more on Monday. To date, 100,230 people have had the virus at some point over the past 13 months, whether they experienced symptoms or not. (Sheehan, 4/12)

Sacramento Bee:
Sacramento Gets Out As COVID Vaccines Help Ease Restrictions

A year ago, Sacramento could not have looked more different. Shortly after COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic in March 2020, the day-to-day bustle in California’s capital city ground to a halt. Sacramento was practically a ghost town in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. … Old Sacramento looked like a relic from the past this Sunday afternoon — not exactly like a 19th century Western town, but more like a city in spring 2019. The mild weather drew crowds out to the riverside tourist district for a chance to stretch their legs. Old Sacramento has been a popular destination amid the pandemic — it’s relatively open and there’s lots of space to social distance. This Sunday looked almost normal in comparison with the below-average patronage over the last several months. (Moleski, 4/12)

San Francisco Chronicle:
Over Half Of California Local Health Departments Have Already Opened Up Vaccine Eligibility

More than half of California’s local health departments have opened up coronavirus vaccinations to people 16 or older, or in some cases 18 and older, ahead of the state’s Thursday “open season” target date to do so. At least 32 of the 60 local health jurisdictions — which are mostly counties, plus a couple cities that have their own health departments, like Berkeley — have taken the early step, expanding vaccine eligibility to people as young as either 16 or 18, according to the California Department of Public Health and research by The Chronicle. (Ho, 4/12)

The Press Democrat:
Vaccine Resisters Could Be Roadblock To Herd Immunity In Sonoma County

For months, public health officials and doctors have urged everyone to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus as soon as they can. For at least that long, most Americans have clamored to do just that. And yet nearly four months after the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine went into the arm of someone who wasn’t part of a clinical trial, there are holdouts — as many as 23% of the population in North Bay counties, including Sonoma, according to a recent survey conducted by the Bay Area Council. Due to the spread of coronavirus variants, officials now believe herd immunity won’t be achieved until 75-80% of the population is immunized. But public hesitancy to receive the vaccine could be a barrier to getting there. (Barber, 4/12)

Bay Area News Group:
Can You Get That Second COVID Vaccine Shot A Little Closer To Home This Time? 

With fewer COVID-19 vaccine doses available the next two weeks and significantly more people soon eligible to take them, many Bay Area residents will be heading outside the region to score their life-saving shots. But will those who traveled to great lengths for their first doses when appointments were hard to come by find their second shots closer to home? Most Bay Area counties, health care providers and pharmacies are allowing people to book second-dose appointments even if they received their first shots elsewhere. Because of the limited vaccine supply, however, that’s easier said than done for some people. (Angst, 4/13)

San Francisco Chronicle:
Here’s How Bay Area COVID Vaccine-Hunting Experts Say You Can Prep For April 15

Starting Thursday, all Californians ages 16 and older will be eligible for a coronavirus vaccine — and there are several ways you can prepare, according to Bay Area vaccine-hunting experts. First things first: Don’t get discouraged. The searching process can be disappointing given how quickly appointments are snatched, and you might not find a slot on your first try — but experts encourage people to keep trying. (Flores, 4/12)

Bay Area News Group:
Santa Clara County Opens Vaccination Appointments To Teens

Santa Clara County on Monday night opened COVID-19 vaccination appointments to anyone who is 16 years of age or older and lives or works in the county. Patients who receive their primary care from the County of Santa Clara Health System can also book a shot, according to the county’s COVID-19 vaccination eligibility and scheduling website. Other Bay Area counties that are allowing teens to schedule appointments include Contra Costa. The state, meanwhile, is expected to expand vaccine eligibility to everyone in the state 16 and older on Thursday. (Green, 4/12)

Los Angeles Times:
Q&A: What are vaccine passports, and why do some people hate them so much?

As government-issued documents go, the “COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card” is about as bland as a 1099 from the IRS. The 3-by-4-inch piece of white card stock bears the logo of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and contain a few key pieces of information, including the recipient’s name, date of birth, and the type and lot number of the shot administered. Yet the country is convulsed by a debate over the information it bears and whether it will become the basis for government-issued vaccine passports. (Healy, 4/13)

Fresno Bee:
Will Schools Require The COVID-19 Vaccine? 

COVID-19 vaccines will soon be available for all Californians ages 16 and older. Will schools mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for college and K-12 students once it is available for children? California has a few vaccines required for all students — polio, Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis (DTaP), Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR), Hepatitis B, and chickenpox. (Dieppa, 4/13)

Los Angeles Times:
LAUSD’s Slow, Cautious Reopening Shows The Influence Of The Teachers Union But Has Critics

The Los Angeles school district is set to unfold a gradual and partial reopening plan on Tuesday, one that was heavily influenced by teachers union demands that led to a delayed start date and limited live instructional time — and also by strict safety imperatives shared by both the district and union. L.A. schools Supt. Austin Beutner has hailed the reopening as a nation-leading model for school safety that is sensitive to families in low-income communities hardest hit by illness and death during the pandemic. But the approach has also generated criticism from those who say the quantity and quality of instruction for 465,000 students have been sacrificed this year as a result of union concerns. (Blume, 4/13)

Los Angeles Times:
8 To 3: Tents, Tutoring And Armies Of Child-Care Workers — Inside LAUSD’s Extended-Day Program

The majority of Los Angeles Unified School District students will still be learning from home when classrooms begin to reopen this week — but if your kids are among those headed back to campus, chances are they’ll spend more hours in day care than with their teacher. For more than 70% of returning elementary schoolers, those hours will probably stretch from the end of in-person instruction at 11 a.m. until 4 p.m., though for some it may be from 8 a.m. until after lunch. And for 64% of middle schoolers, it could be several full days a week, from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. (Sharp, 4/12)

Bay Area News Group:
El Camino Health Launches Big Upgrades At Mountain View Hospital

El Camino Health has launched construction on a wide-ranging revamp of women’s health and maternity facilities at its Mountain View hospital campus. The upgrades at El Camino Hospital are expected to be built in phases and are slated to be complete by sometime in 2024, officials with the South Bay health care system said. The capital improvement program at the hospital’s women’s health and maternity center in Mountain View should cost about $149 million, executives said. “We have a long history of providing high-quality maternal and child health services for our community,” said Dan Woods, chief executive officer with El Camino Health. (Avalos, 4/13)

San Francisco Chronicle:
New Website Collects Examples Of Asian Language Discrimination In Vaccine Access

Language barriers often hinder Asian Americans’ access to lifesaving coronavirus vaccines, says a coalition led by a Bay Area health center. To measure and highlight the problem, Asian Health Services in Oakland unveiled a new website Monday to collect and publish such stories from around the country. “With the intense increase in anti-Asian hate this year, we understand the necessity of documenting and raising the visibility of these experiences,” said Thu Quach, Asian Health Services’ chief deputy of administration. (Asimov, 4/12)

San Francisco Chronicle:
Mayor Breed Wants To Turn An Empty San Francisco Office Into A Drug Sobering Center

Mayor London Breed will revive an effort to open a drug sobering center in San Francisco on Tuesday, more than a year after the pandemic forced the city to halt its plans for such a site in the Tenderloin. Breed wants to turn an empty office space at 1076 Howard St. into a clinic where people can ride out a painful or dangerous high in a safe and calm environment. The hope is that the 24/7 site would help make a dent in the city’s raging drug epidemic, which claimed more than three times as many people in 2020 than COVID-19. (Thadani, 4/13)

San Francisco Chronicle:
New Website Collects Examples Of Asian Language Discrimination In Vaccine Access

Language barriers often hinder Asian Americans’ access to lifesaving coronavirus vaccines, says a coalition led by a Bay Area health center. To measure and highlight the problem, Asian Health Services in Oakland unveiled a new website Monday to collect and publish such stories from around the country. “With the intense increase in anti-Asian hate this year, we understand the necessity of documenting and raising the visibility of these experiences,” said Thu Quach, Asian Health Services’ chief deputy of administration. (Asimov, 4/12)

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