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

Lawyers for a church with more than 160 congregations across California say they will seek an immediate court order allowing indoor worship after the Supreme Court told a lower federal court to reexamine state coronavirus restrictions on church services.

The victory Thursday for Pasadena-based Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry follows a recent high court ruling in favor of churches and synagogues in New York.

The Supreme Court order came the day after restaurants gained some traction in their challenge to a Los Angeles County ban on outdoor dining. The cases represent rare gains in legal challenges of COVID-19 regulations.

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have now passed the peaks set this summer, so Gov. Gavin Newsom introduced a new regional stay-at-home order on Thursday based on intensive care unit capacity to try and mitigate the pandemic’s spread during the winter holidays.

The new public health order will kick into effect once a region of California has less than 15% of their ICU capacity remaining. The state has been broken up into five regions: Bay Area, Greater Sacramento, Northern California, San Joaquin Valley, Southern California. See a map here.

None of the regions currently meet that criteria, but some are expected to hit it early next week. Regions affected by the order will need to comply with restrictions for at least three weeks.

Retail stores and shopping centers are permitted to remain open indoors at 20% capacity, while restaurants can only stay open for takeout. Some outdoor recreation facilities can also remain open with modifications, along with entertainment production and professional sports, but without a live audience.

The new order comes as more than 8,500 Californians are hospitalized with COVID-19, more than any other time in the pandemic. At least 2,000 of those are in intensive care units.

12:01 p.m: Santa Clauses across the nation are donning masks, face shields

Santa Claus adjusts his protective face shield between visits from children and their families at Bass Pro Shops, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020, in MiamiAP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Santa Claus usually may wear a red hat, a red cap, and now this holiday season, a mask too. Portraying the jolly man in the coronavirus age requires many precautions. While being older than 60 and fuller might make for a perfect Santa, it could also signal the kinds of underlying physical conditions that could lead to severe virus complications.

According to the Associated Press, many Santas this year will be wearing masks and face shields, sitting behind glass or visiting with children online. One thing few are doing: putting children on their laps for face-to-face conversations.

The pandemic is hurting many Santas — not only financially with reduced performances, but emotionally. The people who portray St. Nick say they like bringing joy to children, and that’s much harder to do from a distance.

Wednesday, December 2

6:23 p.m.: California reports more than 20,000 virus cases in one day

California has broken the record for new coronavirus cases reported in a single day. 

The state reported 20,759 new cases on Wednesday, shattering the previous record of more than 18,350 set just last week. According to CalMatters, 8,517 Californians are hospitalized, nearly doubled the number who were two weeks ago.

The numbers reflect an alarming surge of new cases in the nation’s most populous state that has Gov. Gavin Newsom considering a new stay-at-home order during the crucial holiday shopping season. 

Newsom is still isolating in his Sacramento-area home after three of his children were exposed to the virus. He did not hold a news conference on Wednesday. But he said earlier in the week he was considering drastic measures.

5:19 p.m: Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak back in office after being diagnosed with COVID-19

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said Tuesday he has returned to his office following the completion of self-isolation he began after being diagnosed with COVID-19 in mid-November, according to the Associated Press.

The governor said on Twitter that he and his team were continuing to work on behalf of Nevadans affected by the pandemic, and he thanked those who sent him well wishes.

Sisolak, a Democrat, isolated at the Governor’s Mansion in Carson City. He announced on Nov. 13 that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and said three days later that he was only experiencing mild head congestion.

He was diagnosed as the state saw a spike in coronavirus cases that’s now straining its hospital system.

5:15 p.m.: Photo at Reno facility fuels false claims over coronavirus

With cases of coronavirus surging in Nevada, false claims calling the pandemic a made-up crisis are swirling on social media, according to the Associated Press.

Social media users are sharing a doctor’s selfie from an alternative care site in Reno to make it appear no one is using the facility. Renown Regional Medical Center, which operates the auxiliary site in a parking garage, has been a primary target of other false claims suggesting that hospitals are empty in the state, which recently surpassed 150,000 virus cases.

President Donald Trump shared the photo Tuesday in a tweet criticizing the election results in the state.

11:22 a.m.: Outdoor dining still open in Pasadena

The city of Pasadena has kept outdoor dining open despite Los Angeles County recently restricting restaurants to takeout only, according to the Associated Press.

A surge of COVID-19 cases last week in the nation’s most populous county led to a three-week end to outdoor dining and a broader stay-home order that took effect Monday for every town and city in the county except for Pasadena and Long Beach. Both have their own public health departments and can set up their own rules.

Long Beach, however, has chosen to close their outdoor dining. While Pasadena, a city of 140,000 people, has followed the county’s lead with health directives, they decided to chart their own course and closely monitor their 600 restaurants, which their officials claim is a more aggressive approach.

“We literally have seen COVID cases in a large percentage of businesses across the city,” Pasadena spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said. “To single out restaurants was unfair.”

According to Derderian, Pasadena closed down seven restaurants after inspectors found safety and health violations like staff not wearing plastic shields or seating people indoors. All had been approved to reopen after correcting the errors.

Daily assessments of Pasadena’s virus situation eventually led to more restrictions on Tuesday, limiting gatherings to only people of the same household, which also applies to outdoor seating.

If the city doesn’t put a pause on their outdoor dining altogether, it could be forced to do so by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who suggested a more “drastic” stay-at-home order that could be in the works to help prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.

10:05 a.m.: CDC advises staying home for upcoming winter holidays

U.S health officials have said that staying home for the upcoming winter holidays is the best way to stay safe and protect others, according to the Associated Press.

But for those who choose to ignore that advice and meet with family or friends in different households, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggests getting COVID-19 testing before and after trips and gatherings is an option.

Many Americans didn’t follow CDC guidance again traveling over Thanksgiving, so the agency announced the testing option during a Wednesday news briefing. They said even if only a few people become infected while traveling, that could still result in hundreds of thousands of new infections.

The advice also included reducing non-essential activities for a full week after travel or for 10 days if not tested afterward.

9:59 a.m.: While Gov. Gavin Newsom hints at another statewide stay-at-home order, some local officials are unsure of plans

Intensive care units at California hospitals are filling up, so on Monday, Gov. Newsom warned that another stay-at-home order could be coming within days. But local officials say they are still in the dark about his plans.

California’s health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said he’s been in constant contact with local health officers and hospital administrators. Still, officials from at least five counties in the most restrictive reopening tier said they haven’t heard of any further lockdown plans from the state yet.

Several county spokespersons said they would likely support new state guidance, but for now, local health officials  — like all Californians — are standing by, watching the numbers and awaiting the possibility of a future shutdown.

Tuesday, December 1

5:52 p.m.: California paid $400 million in jobless benefits to inmates

The scale of the unemployment fraud involving California state prison inmates has grown to a staggering $400 million. That’s nearly triple the amount prosecutors first disclosed last week. 

The new number comes from the California Employment Development Department comparing its unemployment claims data to inmates’ Social Security numbers. In all, records show about 31,000 inmates applied for benefits. About 20,800 were paid about $400 million. The rest were unpaid claims totaling about $80 million. 

The new number is higher because it includes the base unemployment benefit and additional aid Congress approved during the pandemic. Gov. Gavin Newsom said he is “deeply alarmed.” He said bad actors abused the system.

5:48 p.m.: Elected officials dine out after urging others to stay home

San Francisco’s mayor dined at a posh Napa Valley restaurant the day after California Gov. Gavin Newsom was there. San Jose’s mayor went to his parents’ house for Thanksgiving. And a Los Angeles County supervisor dined outdoors after voting to ban outdoor dining there. 

They were all on the hot seat Tuesday after reports that they violated restrictions aimed at controlling the spread of the coronavirus — or at least the spirit of the rules. 

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that San Francisco Mayor London Breed attended a party with seven others at the French Laundry on Nov. 7. San Jose’s mayor apologized for a family gathering with five different households. California’s rules limit gatherings to three households.

5:45 p.m.: California to get 327,000 vaccine doses later this month

A coronavirus vaccine is on the way, at least for some at first. 

California will get 327,000 doses of a vaccine from Pfizer later this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday. After a person received their first dose of the vaccine, a required second dose will be delivered and given about three weeks later. A vaccine from a second company — Moderna — is also nearing approval.

Newsom said later this week, he’ll unveil a plan for who will get vaccinated first. He has previously said health care workers will be among the first to get a vaccine, and other Californians shouldn’t expect a COVID-19 inoculation until next spring or summer.

Is shopping in stores safe during the pandemic?AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that shopping in crowded stores is a “higher risk” activity. People should limit their in-person shopping time — even at supermarkets.

Instead, the CDC recommends shopping online, visiting outdoor markets, or using curbside pickup, where workers bring orders outside to you. If you need to enter a store, instead go during off-hours when there are likely to be fewer people, generally early in the morning or later at night. Wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet away from others, and shop quickly.

2:14 p.m.: Health care workers, nursing home residents should get vaccine priority, panel recommends

An influential scientific panel has taken up one of the most pressing questions in the U.S. coronavirus epidemic: when the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine become available, who should be at the front of the line for shots?

According to the Associated Press, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted Tuesday to recommend a proposal that would prioritize health care workers and patients in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

NPR reports that these high priority groups could be fully vaccinated by early next year, if the FDA’s approval timeline doesn’t change from mid-December.

The two groups together represent around 23 million out of a total of 330 million American people.

Because supplies will be short during the first few weeks after vaccine authorization, healthcare and long-term care facilities will still need to make decisions on their own internal priority schedule for immunization.

Staff and residents at long-term care facilities make up only 6% of confirmed coronavirus cases, but make up about 40% of all of the COVID-19 deaths.

10:13 a.m.: Winter weather will make outdoor church services difficult for attendees

With the winter weather arriving soon, churchgoers might find attending outdoor services a little difficult, so Catholic Bishop Myron Cotta of the Stockton Diocese is asking community county leaders for an exemption to resume indoor services.

California health officials have been moving counties back into the purple tier, the most restrictive tier in the state’s COVID-19 reopening system.

The Stockton Diocese covers San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Calaveras, Tuolumne, Mono and Alpine counties. Both Mono and Alpine counties are in the red tier, so their church services can still be held indoors, but the other counties in the Stockton Diocese are all in the purple tier, where indoor worship is banned.

Chandler Marquez, communications director for the Stockton Diocese,  said that no COVID-19 outbreaks were attributed to church gatherings when indoor services were allowed since they followed some coronavirus safety measures.

“Temperatures were taken at the door; there’s also a log of people who come to indoor worship for contact tracing if needed,” Marquez said. “Wearing masks was mandatory, and the church building itself was sanitized between services.”

San Joaquin County Counsel Mark Myles says there’s not much wiggle room for the county in light of the state’s mandatory orders.

“We have an obligation to follow the directive of the state,” Myles said. “The county supervisors can’t override the public health orders of the state.”

Attorney Dean Broyles defended a Lodi church earlier this year when they attempted to defy the state’s orders and was shut down. He said the Supreme Court’s ruling on allowing indoor services in New York does not necessarily apply to California at this time, but future litigation could.

“If churches are meeting otherwise safely that the government can’t arbitrarily limit the number of people meeting in church,” Broyles said.

For the one and a half million Catholics in the diocese, worship will have to be outdoors or online for the immediate future.

Bishop Cotta can only ask his parishioners for their prayers.

“Brothers and sisters, this truly has been and continues to be a stressful and trying time for all of us,” Cotta said. “Pray for God’s mercy an end to this time of uncertainty, suffering, and loss.”

Tuesday, December 1

5:52 p.m.: California paid $400 million in jobless benefits to inmates

The scale of the unemployment fraud involving California state prison inmates has grown to a staggering $400 million. That’s nearly triple the amount prosecutors first disclosed last week. 

The new number comes from the California Employment Development Department comparing its unemployment claims data to inmates’ Social Security numbers. In all, records show about 31,000 inmates applied for benefits. About 20,800 were paid about $400 million. The rest were unpaid claims totaling about $80 million. 

The new number is higher because it includes the base unemployment benefit and additional aid Congress approved during the pandemic. Gov. Gavin Newsom said he is “deeply alarmed.” He said bad actors abused the system.

5:48 p.m.: Elected officials dine out after urging others to stay home

San Francisco’s mayor dined at a posh Napa Valley restaurant the day after California Gov. Gavin Newsom was there. San Jose’s mayor went to his parents’ house for Thanksgiving. And a Los Angeles County supervisor dined outdoors after voting to ban outdoor dining there. 

They were all on the hot seat Tuesday after reports that they violated restrictions aimed at controlling the spread of the coronavirus — or at least the spirit of the rules. 

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that San Francisco Mayor London Breed attended a party with seven others at the French Laundry on Nov. 7. San Jose’s mayor apologized for a family gathering with five different households. California’s rules limit gatherings to three households.

5:45 p.m.: California to get 327,000 vaccine doses later this month

A coronavirus vaccine is on the way, at least for some at first. 

California will get 327,000 doses of a vaccine from Pfizer later this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday. After a person received their first dose of the vaccine, a required second dose will be delivered and given about three weeks later. A vaccine from a second company — Moderna — is also nearing approval.

Newsom said later this week, he’ll unveil a plan for who will get vaccinated first. He has previously said health care workers will be among the first to get a vaccine, and other Californians shouldn’t expect a COVID-19 inoculation until next spring or summer.

2:18 p.m.: CDC says to keep shopping trips short and quick to minimize contact with others

AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin

As the holiday season gets underway, health experts have said to avoid shopping in stores when possible, according to the Associated Press.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that shopping in crowded stores is a “higher risk” activity. People should limit their in-person shopping time — even at supermarkets.

Instead, the CDC recommends shopping online, visiting outdoor markets, or using curbside pickup, where workers bring orders outside to you. If you need to enter a store, instead go during off-hours when there are likely to be fewer people, generally early in the morning or later at night. Wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet away from others, and shop quickly.

2:14 p.m.: Health care workers, nursing home residents should get vaccine priority, panel recommends

An influential scientific panel has taken up one of the most pressing questions in the U.S. coronavirus epidemic: when the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine become available, who should be at the front of the line for shots?

According to the Associated Press, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted Tuesday to recommend a proposal that would prioritize health care workers and patients in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

NPR reports that these high priority groups could be fully vaccinated by early next year, if the FDA’s approval timeline doesn’t change from mid-December.

The two groups together represent around 23 million out of a total of 330 million American people.

Because supplies will be short during the first few weeks after vaccine authorization, healthcare and long-term care facilities will still need to make decisions on their own internal priority schedule for immunization.

Staff and residents at long-term care facilities make up only 6% of confirmed coronavirus cases, but make up about 40% of all of the COVID-19 deaths.

10:13 a.m.: Winter weather will make outdoor church services difficult for attendees

With the winter weather arriving soon, churchgoers might find attending outdoor services a little difficult, so Catholic Bishop Myron Cotta of the Stockton Diocese is asking community county leaders for an exemption to resume indoor services.

California health officials have been moving counties back into the purple tier, the most restrictive tier in the state’s COVID-19 reopening system.

The Stockton Diocese covers San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Calaveras, Tuolumne, Mono and Alpine counties. Both Mono and Alpine counties are in the red tier, so their church services can still be held indoors, but the other counties in the Stockton Diocese are all in the purple tier, where indoor worship is banned.

Chandler Marquez, communications director for the Stockton Diocese,  said that no COVID-19 outbreaks were attributed to church gatherings when indoor services were allowed since they followed some coronavirus safety measures.

“Temperatures were taken at the door; there’s also a log of people who come to indoor worship for contact tracing if needed,” Marquez said. “Wearing masks was mandatory, and the church building itself was sanitized between services.”

San Joaquin County Counsel Mark Myles says there’s not much wiggle room for the county in light of the state’s mandatory orders.

“We have an obligation to follow the directive of the state,” Myles said. “The county supervisors can’t override the public health orders of the state.”

Attorney Dean Broyles defended a Lodi church earlier this year when they attempted to defy the state’s orders and was shut down. He said the Supreme Court’s ruling on allowing indoor services in New York does not necessarily apply to California at this time, but future litigation could.

“If churches are meeting otherwise safely that the government can’t arbitrarily limit the number of people meeting in church,” Broyles said.

For the one and a half million Catholics in the diocese, worship will have to be outdoors or online for the immediate future.

Bishop Cotta can only ask his parishioners for their prayers.

“Brothers and sisters, this truly has been and continues to be a stressful and trying time for all of us,” Cotta said. “Pray for God’s mercy an end to this time of uncertainty, suffering, and loss.”



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