Find an updated count of COVID-19 cases in California and by county on our tracker here.
Monday, January 4
California’s COVID-19 death toll topped 26,500 this weekend, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Since the start of the pandemic, the state’s confirmed cases have neared 2.4 million. Hospitals in the state are treating more than 22,000 COVID-19 patients, including nearly 4,700 in ICUs, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Authorities in California have warned of a potential huge surge on the horizon due to travel and gatherings for the December holidays and New Year’s.
All 67 of the 2021 men’s March Madness games will be played in a bubble in Indiana in an effort to stage the college basketball tournament after last year’s was canceled due to the pandemic, NPR reports.
Some of last year’s 2020 March Madness games were originally set to take place at the Golden 1 Center in downtown Sacramento before being canceled due to the virus. Golden 1 Center last hosted March Madness in 2017, which had a $4 million economic impact on the city.
The NCAA says it’s still determining whether fans can attend the games. The organization also announced plans to hold the women’s tournament in March, with Final Four games in San Antonio, Texas. It said it was in talks to hold the whole women’s tournament in that same region to reduce team travel.
One employee is dead and dozens of workers are infected with COVID-19 at the Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center after an employee appeared at the hospital wearing an inflatable holiday costume on Christmas Day, the Associated Press reports.
Since Dec. 27, 44 staff members in the emergency department have tested positive for the virus, according to Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center Senior Vice President and Area Manager Irene Chavez.
Inflatable costumes like the one used by the employee usually rely on battery-operated fans to suck in air to keep its shape, which could have spread COVID-19-infected droplets in the air. Investigators are looking into the functioning of the fan.
California now has strict new rules meant to protect workers from contracting COVID-19 on the job under AB 685, a new state law which took effect Jan. 1.
If you can’t work remotely and have spent any time at work the past couple months, you may have received an email from HR telling you that a colleague tested positive for the coronavirus, or was exposed to someone with it.
Starting this year, employers will have to do that. The new law requires written notification of potential exposures in the workplace.
Labor attorney Caroline Donelan says employers have an ethical duty to keep their workers safe, and many have already been doing this.
“These processes are probably already in place for most employers. But now in addition to this ethical duty, they now have a legal duty to do,” Donelan said.
The law also requires companies to report outbreaks — defined as three or more cases at a jobsite — to their local public health department.
Donelan says workers who don’t feel they’re getting those protections have a few options. She says it’s a good idea to start by speaking with your employer first. But if that doesn’t change anything, head to Cal/OSHA’s website.
“They have a hotline to call if employees have questions on things like paid sick leave, retaliation protections,” Donelan said. “And if they feel like they’ve gotten to the point where they want to file a complaint, that can be done completely online as well.”
The last thing AB 685 does is give Cal/OSHA the authority to shut down work sites that aren’t following these new coronavirus rules. But Donelan says the agency is already overwhelmed, and how much it actually uses that power remains to be seen.
The mayor of Los Angeles says the pandemic is getting worse as the coronavirus spreads rapidly within households and Californians let their guard down, according to the Associated Press.
Mayor Eric Garcetti says LA County is recording a new COVID-19 case every six seconds. Garcetti said on the CBS program “Face the Nation” on Sunday that he’s concerned news of a vaccine rollout “has made everybody so hopeful” that they wrongly feel they can relax their behavior. He said they must stay vigilant.
California hospitals stretched to their limits will get help from the state’s Fire and Rescue Mutual Aid System, which is usually used in response to wildfires, floods and other natural disasters.
Sunday, January 3
Stay-at-home orders for the Sacramento region will be extended, state officials announced Saturday, as intensive care unit capacity is projected to remain low.
The region fell under the state’s regional stay-at-home order Dec. 10, after ICU capacity dropped below the state’s 15% threshold to remain open. Under the orders, businesses such as barbershops and nail salons must close, while retail stores can stay open at 20% capacity and restaurants are limited to takeout-only.
Regions must stay under the orders for at least three weeks, but can come off once projections show ICU capacity rising above 15% four weeks in the future. The Greater Sacramento region would have been able to leave the order as soon as Jan. 1. But on Saturday, the state reported that the region’s four-week ICU capacity projections do not meet the criteria to exit the order.
The Southern California and San Joaquin Valley regions also remain under the order. The Bay Area will remain under the order until at least Jan. 8 when it has a chance to exit based on ICU projections.
More than 350,000 people in the United States have been killed by the coronavirus, NPR reports.
The devastating milestone is according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.
A new variant of the virus continues to spread across dozens of countries, including the U.S., where it has been found so far in California, Colorado and Florida.
The U.S. could see a particularly deadly January, after a record number of infections in December.
President-elect Joe Biden said this week that “the next few weeks and months are going to be very tough, a very tough period for our nation — maybe the toughest during this entire pandemic.”
California’s governor has appointed Rita L. Saenz to oversee the state’s unemployment benefits department, which has been overwhelmed by claims during the coronavirus pandemic and also has paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in phony claims.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the appointment Wednesday of Saenz, a former director of the state Department of Social Services.
She replaces Sharon Hilliard, who was appointed by Newsom in February but retires this week.
The department has been struggling to deal with a huge backlog of unemployment claims because of the COVID-19 outbreak that shut most nonessential businesses and cost millions their jobs.
Saturday, January 2
A pharmacist from Milwaukee was arrested Thursday on suspicion of intentionally removing hundreds of coronavirus vaccines from refrigeration, leading to their destruction, according to NPR.
Police officials from Grafton, Wisconsin, said in a statement the pharmacist, who has been fired from the Advocate Aurora Health hospital system, was arrested on recommended charges of first-degree recklessly endangering safety, adulterating a prescription drug and criminal damage to property.
Health care workers were forced to throw out about 570 doses of the Moderna vaccine that had been removed from required refrigeration. However, 57 patients were given the medicine that had been left out. Bahr said those vaccines were rendered potentially less effective or altogether ineffective. The patients were notified and are not at any risk of adverse health effects, he said.
Officials said that in a written statement to Aurora Health officials, the pharmacist responsible admitted “to intentionally removing the vaccine knowing that if not properly stored the vaccine would be ineffective.”
More than 20 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus have been recorded in the United States, NPR reports.
The country reached the grim milestone on Friday, the first day of 2021, according to numbers from Johns Hopkins University.
With 10 million cases recorded Nov. 9, the U.S. more than doubled the number of infections in less than two months. It accounts for nearly a quarter of all cases in the world and a fifth of all deaths.
California leads the U.S. in cases, with a new single-day record in deaths recorded on Friday.
California started the new year by reporting a record 585 coronavirus deaths in a single day.
The state Department of Public Health said Friday there were more than 47,000 new confirmed cases reported, bringing the total to more than 2.29 million.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office says California will begin collaborating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to evaluate and upgrade outdated oxygen delivery systems at six Los Angeles area hospitals.
California this week became the third state to exceed 25,000 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
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