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California may begin wider screening with quick virus tests
California State University to keep classes online next term
Butte County temporarily allows indoor dining due to wildfires, air quality
Case reporting issues, differing regulations could impact hopes for fall Pac-12 football season
Trump Nevada rallies could be canceled for violating gathering rules
Thursday, September 10
California’s typical turnaround time for coronavirus tests has dropped to less than two days.
State health officials said Thursday that level allows for effective isolation and quarantine of those who are infected to limit the spread.
Health officials said two-thirds of the test results are now available within one day, and nearly 90% within two days. That’s down from as many as seven business days last month.
Improvements in capacity and turnaround will allow the state to soon begin what is commonly called surveillance testing.
California State University says classes at its 23 campuses will stay primarily online when the next term begins in January due to expected increases in coronavirus cases later this year.
Chancellor Timothy White informed faculty, staff and 480,000 undergraduate students of the decision Thursday. White says the decision was based on factors like the need to publicize course offerings and enroll students for the next term as well as forecasts that infections will spike this winter.
He also cited “an insufficient testing and contact-tracing infrastructure” as reasons for continuing the next term virtually.
Due to the impacts of wildfires in the area, Butte County is temporarily allowing restaurants to resume indoor dining services.
Restaurants that open indoors can only operate at 25% capacity and must place tables 6 feet apart. Servers and customers must also wear face coverings.
Once the air quality has improved, restaurants will be required to go back to only operating outdoors, per state COVID-19 guidelines.
Around 20,000 people were asked to evacuate Tuesday night into Wednesday when the Bear Fire, part of the North Complex, grew by 97,000 acres in a single day. Three people have died in the fires.
The hope that a fall football season might happen for the Pac-12 may be premature, despite the conference’s recent announcement of their ability to rapidly test athletes, according to the Associated Press.
Due to a patchwork of local regulations, navigating the coronavirus has been uneven among the league’s athletic programs. There are also internal disagreements about whether student athletes’ test results should be made public.
Other football conferences are facing similar unanswered questions as the football season gets closer to resuming.
Wednesday, September 9
President Donald Trump’s plans to hold weekend rallies in Reno and Las Vegas are in jeopardy after local officials warned they would violate Nevada’s ban on gatherings of more than 50 people because of the coronavirus.
Trump’s Nevada campaign co-chair Adam Laxalt said in a Twitter post today that both events to be held at airport hangars Saturday in Reno and Sunday in Las Vegas had been canceled.
The Nevada Independent reported that Reno airport officials warned a company that planned to host the rally at a private hangar that it would be in violation of both the state’s virus restrictions and the lease of the hangar.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom is criticizing the organizers of a state-permitted religious rally at the Capitol building in downtown Sacramento this past Sunday.
A California Highway Patrol spokesperson said the event was permitted for up to 1,000 participants, but the agency estimates up to 3,000 people attended.
Video shows most attendees packed together and not wearing masks. Public health guidelines require mask wearing when social distancing is not possible — even outdoors.
“It does not help to have thousands and thousands of people not practicing physical distancing or social distancing, not wearing masks, in fact, quite the contrary,” Newsom said in a news conference Tuesday. “Quite literally, someone could lose their lives. And I know that’s not the intent of anyone who organizes these events, but it may be the outcome.”
Newsom says he is looking into the incident, and CHP says it will review its permitting guidelines.
Tuesday, September 8
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has relaxed coronavirus restrictions in five more counties.
As of Tuesday, Amador, Orange, Placer, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties each moved to a less restrictive classification in the state’s new tiered system. The announcement means the state has now eased restrictions for more than 8 million people living in three of the state’s most populous counties — San Diego, Orange and Santa Clara.
Hospitalizations are down 24% over the past two weeks. But the Newsom administration is taking it slow by requiring counties to meet benchmarks for two consecutive weeks before they can be upgraded.
As of Tuesday, 33 of the state’s 58 counties are listed in the top tier of the state’s coronavirus tracking system.
Sacramento County says it has substantially improved turnaround time for coronavirus testing. Dr. Olivia Kasirye is the county public health officer. She says testing hit a wall a few months ago.
“There were not enough appointments available, and also there was a very long turnaround time for results,” Kasirye said. “As long as 7 to 9 days in some situations.”
She said a national shortage of supplies contributed to the breakdown. Now, the county aims to return results in 24 to 72 hours.
Kasirye said a recent partnership with biomedical company StemExpress has allowed the county to increase capacity at its ten testing sites. There are also plans to extend hours of operation in September.
As the pandemic enters its sixth month in the United States, mental health conditions are rising. A new bill on California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk would dramatically expand what insurance companies have to cover.
“It’s a problem that existed before COVID, and COVID has made it worse, by exacerbating depression, anxiety…” said Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, who authored the bill. “We are seeing people who were in recovery from addiction who are now falling off the wagon relapsing.”
The state already requires health insurers to cover treatment for some mental health conditions, but critics say that many conditions are left out of coverage.
Insurance companies and business groups both oppose the expansion. The insurance companies claim that this bill would put too much extra strain on an already burdened healthcare system, especially in rural areas. Business groups, however, argue that the expansion would raise premiums for employers.
Monday, September 7
This Labor Day weekend, health officials across California are asking residents to avoid large gatherings, practice social distancing and hopefully avoid another holiday spike in COVID-19 cases like the state saw following Memorial Day and July Fourth.
“We are all tempted to get together with family and friends for cookouts and Labor Day celebrations, but caving into that temptation could turn deadly, especially for our parents, grandparents and friends who might be more susceptible to the virus,” Acting State Public Health Officer Dr. Erica Pan said.
Nevada officials, including Gov. Steve Sisolak, are also pleading with residents to avoid large gatherings over the holiday.
Sacramento County’s Department of Regional Parks released recommendations for preventing the spread of COVID-19 this weekend for anyone choosing to visit the region’s parks:
- Maintaining at least six-foot social distancing from individuals who are not part of the same household or living unit
- Frequently washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or using hand sanitizer that is recognized by the CDC as effective in combating COVID-19
- Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or fabric or, if not possible, into the sleeve or elbow (but not into hands)
- Avoiding all social interactions outside the household when sick with a fever or cough.
Saturday, September 5
According to the California Department of Public Health, the state now has a total of 727,239 positive cases.
There were 4,956 newly recorded confirmed cases of COVID-19 on September 4.
There have been a total of 13,643 deaths in the state.
Friday, September 4
Officials in Reno-Sparks announced a new COVID-19 tracking tool that shows the risk of community spread on a daily basis with the hope that it will lower the risk of transmission by giving residents an easier to read summary of the pandemic.
The Truckee Meadows COVID Risk Meter weighs five different statistics: requests for COVID-19 tests, the rate of new infections, test positivity rate, hospitalizations and hospital capacity.
Jeremy Smith, director of the Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Agency, volunteered to create the risk meter by using his background in data analysis.
“What our model is trying to do is add it up,” he said. “Are all of these things up at the same time? And if they are then we should be thinking as a community about altering our behavior to bring them back down.”
The tool uses a color-coded system like the EPA’s AirNow website or Washoe County’s burn codes, which tell residents when they’re allowed to have wood fires.
Sparks City Councilman Kristopher Dahir said the meter will be a “tool of hope,” by making COVID-19 updates more digestible than the more complex data dashboards offered by the state and Washoe County.
“It gives us the ability to see what’s happening and not surprise us so much,” he said.
Woodland Christian School in Yolo County has been granted a waiver to reopen in-person instruction for students. It’s the first elementary school in Yolo County to be approved for this waiver.
Schools in counties on the state’s COVID-19 watch list had to apply for a waiver from local public health authorities in order to do in-person learning. Yolo County had been on the watch list since July 8. The waiver is only applicable for grades TK-6.
The watchlist has since been replaced by the state’s new tier system, which places Yolo County in the most-restrictive tier.
Woodland Christian School has made multiple changes to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including hiring extra staff, creating protocol for responding to staff or students who get COVID-19, implementing necessary health and safety measures and developing outdoor instruction space, according to the county.
Yolo County has also received six other waiver applications that are currently being considered.
The U.S. unemployment rate fell considerably in August from 10.2% to 8.4%, the Associated Press reports.
Despite this fall, hiring slowed down in August as employers added the fewest jobs since the pandemic began. According to the Labor Department, employers added 1.4 million jobs in August, down from 1.7 million in July. Only about half of the 22 million jobs lost during the pandemic have been recovered.
With Labor Day this weekend, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak is pleading with residents to avoid large gatherings in celebration of the holiday.
During a Thursday afternoon news conference, the governor said that residents should forgo barbecues and parties with neighbors, friends, and people outside of their immediate family. Sisolak said these potential gatherings could drive the “single most expansive spread” of COVID-19.
Thursday, September 3
Butte County is dealing with a large increase in COVID-19 cases.
The County’s public health department reports the biggest rise in numbers among people ages 18-to-24 living near the Chico State campus. Of the 557 positive cases from August 24-31, around 78% were 18-to-24 year olds.
While Butte County’s Public Health agency says it can’t confirm all the cases were college students, the increase coincides with the start of classes. Butte CountyPublic Health Director Dannette York said the county will remain in the state’s most restrictive coronavirus category unless everyone is taking precautions.
“If college-age individuals do not join the fight and follow those mitigation efforts, or non-pharmaceutical interventions, of social distancing and wearing face coverings, then our cases will continue to climb and we will stay in this most restrictive tier,” York said.
Meanwhile, Chico State has revised reopening plans to move to fully online courses for the rest of the fall semester. It also required most students living in campus housing to move out of their dorm rooms and apartments.
Athletics right-hander Daniel Mengden has tested positive for the coronavirus.
He is asymptomatic but is quarantined at home in Houston, where he received the result. The A’s had a three-game series at Seattle postponed as well as last Sunday’s scheduled series finale at Houston, where the A’s learned of the single positive test.
Oakland general manager David Forst says Mengden was placed on the 10-day injured list. The A’s have added new left-hander Mike Minor to the 40-man roster. He was acquired in a trade with the Texas Rangers.
The Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley church in rural Nevada is again trying to persuade the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals that the state’s 50-person cap on religious gatherings is unconstitutional, the Associated Press reports.
The church filed new briefs with the court Wednesday after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to suspend the restrictions in a 5-4 decision in July. They argue that parishioners’ religious freedoms are being violated, and that the cap on religious gatherings while allowing Nevada’s casinos to operate at 50% capacity puts profits ahead of the First Amendment.
California lawmakers are looking into possible fraud at the Employment Development Department, according to the Los Angeles Times. Some Californians have been concerned about fraud after receiving letters from the EDD addressed to strangers.
The letters are addressed to unrelated people and often come with debit cards loaded with cash. California residents aren’t the only ones receiving letters from EDD; some former residents in states like Florida and Connecticut have also been receiving letters for claims they didn’t file.
The EDD declined to comment on the number of fraudulent cases being investigated. These concerns come as Californians across the state have been left without crucial joblessness benefits after frustrating experiences with the EDD.
Over 200 courses, including some lab classes, have been suspended for a month and will move to a virtual format. On-campus housing will remain open.
California State University, Chico also moved classes online this week.
Wednesday, September 2
As of Sept. 2, at least 304 Sacramento County residents have died of complications from COVID-19 since the pandemic began earlier this year.
More than half of these people, 176, were residents of the city of Sacramento. There have been 18,413 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Sacramento County.
For more information on the numbers of confirmed cases and deaths in every California county, see our COVID-19 tracker.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is getting heat over a solo hair salon visit in San Francisco at a time when California businesses are limited by concern over coronavirus. But she says she was complying with the rules as presented to her by the salon.
Footage aired by Fox News Channel shows Pelosi, her mask around her neck rather than on her face, walking through the establishment. A stylist follows her wearing a mask.
The salon owner said she rents chairs to stylists, and one let her know that Pelosi wanted a wash and a blow dry. Outdoor haircuts are allowed, but indoor salons have not reopened.
Since April, California has provided temporary housing for 22,000 people in a program created to get the state’s unhoused population in rooms amid the pandemic. But the focus needs to shift, Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a press conference Wednesday.
“That was an emergency response,” Newsom said. “Now we need a permanent response, and I’ve long believed that homelessness is solved by permanent, supportive housing.”
Newsom says “Roomkey” is now merging into “Homekey,” a partnership with state and local governments to spend $600 million to buy hotels, motels and apartment buildings statewide by the end of this calendar year.
Cities, counties, local housing agencies and tribal authorities have until September 29 to apply for the funding. Only $50 million of the “Homekey” money comes from the state’s General Fund. The extra $550 million comes from federal coronavirus relief funds which must be spent by the end of the year.
Watch Gov. Newsom’s full press conference here.
After five months of being closed to the public, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is facing a projected loss of $45 million this year, according to Yahoo News.
Furloughs and layoffs have affected 220 of their 580 employees. Since the nonprofit has over 500 employees, the aquarium did not qualify for the Paycheck Protection Program, a forgivable coronavirus loan through the federal government.
The aquarium has had to scale back their conservation work, like reducing plastic pollution and climate change, due to its scaled back budget.
A grand reopening was planned for July 9, but it was cancelled a few days before because Monterey County had just been placed on the state’s COVID-19 watchlist.
There have now been more than 700,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, the highest number of total cases for any state in the U.S. California also reported 3,745 deaths connected to COVID-19 in August, an increase of 18% over July.
Despite this, adjusted for population, California’s case count is smaller than 20 other states, including Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and other Southern states, according to federal data.
While deaths have been increasing, hospitalizations peaked in late July, hitting 3,940 this week. Gov. Gavin Newsom recently launched a new tiered plan to open up the California economy. Hair salons and barbershops are allowed to open again for indoor services, as are malls and other retail at 25% capacity.
Yolo County residents can get a free COVID-19 test at Madison Town Hall in Madison on Wednesday, Sept. 2 from 4-7 p.m.
The free testing site is for Yolo County residents only, and people must show a document with their name and address — such as mail, a bill or a driver’s license — to be served.
The site is first come, first served and all ages are welcome. Registration is recommended, not required, to get tested, but registering does not guarantee a test or a time slot.
Tuesday, September 1
California has inked a $15 million deal with a software company to develop a new COVID-19 tracking system.
The announcement Tuesday came about a month after the state said its current system had undercounted confirmed cases. The problem had serious implications, since the state uses those numbers to make decisions about reopening businesses and schools.
Officials say the deal with Minnesota-based OptumInsight Inc. will allow the state to better track the spread of the virus. California has more confirmed cases than any other state. But recent trends show those numbers dropping, and the percentage of positive tests is also declining.
El Dorado County could move from the state’s “substantial” coronavirus risk category to the lower “moderate” one in the week of Sept. 21.
To move down, the county needs to stay below four new cases per day on average and keep a test positivity rate below 5% over the next 14 days, according to El Dorado County Public Health.
In assigning El Dorado County to the substantial tier, the second-most serious in the new system, the state used the county’s data from the week of August 5-11. Counties have to remain in their assigned tier for three weeks before moving to a less restrictive one. Then, the county can move as long as the number of cases and the test positivity rate meet the less restrictive tier’s requirement in the two most recent weeks.
“El Dorado County’s numbers in the two criteria the State is currently using to determine reopening have been trending relatively lower over the last two weeks,” El Dorado County Public Health Officer Dr. Nancy Williams said in a news release. “The best and easiest way to help ensure we move to the Orange tier in the week of September 21st is for residents and visitors to continue to follow the State’s mandates for face coverings, avoid gatherings with and remain at least six feet from others outside your household and wash your hands.”
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak has announced plans to extend the state’s eviction moratorium another 45 days.
This move will provide relief to an estimated 250,000 renters facing the prospect of losing their housing due to the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
Sisolak made the decision yesterday, one day before the previous moratorium was set to expire. Fears of a widespread eviction crisis in the state have been compounded by delays in state assistance and programs, like unemployment insurance.
Nevada’s moratorium is now set to expire Oct. 16.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed AB 3088, a bill extending a halt to evictions for unpaid rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lawmakers passed the bill Monday. The state’s eviction moratorium was set to expire Sept. 2 if lawmakers didn’t take action.
AB 3088 pauses evictions through January 31 as a result of unpaid rent during the first six months of the pandemic. Renters would have to fill out documents certifying that they were impacted by COVID-19 to be eligible for protections, and would also have to pay at least 25% of their rent starting in September.
For more updates on Monday night’s end of the California legislative session, head here.
Monday, August 31
Following a new ‘tier system’ announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom last week, Sacramento County health officials have put out an order detailing what activities are allowed indoors and outdoors.
Despite Newsom’s announcement, businesses allowed to operate under the new system couldn’t reopen until the county formally allowed it with this new order. Under the new guidelines, which replace the last order published July 14, the following businesses are permitted to operate outdoors:
These businesses are allowed to open for indoor operations:
- Critical infrastructure
- Hair salons and barbershops
- All retail (25% maximum capacity)
- Shopping centers (Malls, destination centers, swap meets, excluding food courts and common areas) maximum 25% capacity
- Professional sports (without live audiences)
These businesses are allowed to open for outdoor operations:
- Personal care services (nail salons, body waxing, estheticians)
- Museums, zoos, aquariums
- Places of worship
- Movie theaters
- Gyms and fitness centers
- Family Entertainment Centers (e.g. bowling alleys, miniature golf, batting cages and arcades)
- Cardrooms, satellite wagering
- Bars, pubs, brewpubs and breweries may operate outdoors, only if they offer sit-down, outdoor meals
The new state reopening strategy organizes counties by tiers, which are determined by the number of new positive cases per week and the positivity rate. With a daily case count of 12 per 100,000 and a positivity rate of 8.1%, Sacramento County is listed at the highest risk level tier in the state. This means that the virus is widespread in the community.
These guidelines do not change the county’s August 28 order to keep schools closed. Schools can reopen for in-person school when they’ve been in Tier 2 for two weeks. A county must remain in its current tier for 21 days, and then meet criteria for the next tier for two weeks, before moving to a less restrictive tier.
California State University, Chico canceled the limited number of in-person classes it was offering. They will be virtual-only for the duration of the fall semester after nearly 30 people tested positive for the coronavirus days after the fall semester started.
University President Gayle Hutchinson says students also need to vacate campus housing by the weekend. Hutchinson says she is asking students to leave campus housing because nearly all on-campus residences have at least one positive case and there are concerns the numbers will increase.
A study shows California’s stay-at-home order in response to the coronavirus outbreak seems to have saved some wildlife, as decreased traffic resulted in fewer collisions with mountain lions, deer and other large animals.
A study by the Road Ecology Center at UC Davis found traffic declined by about 75% after the emergency order went into effect in March. The number of animals struck and killed by vehicles also fell, including a 58% decrease in fatal crashes involving mountain lions between the 10 weeks before and 10 weeks after the order.
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